Pentagon confirms North Korea launched multiple ballistic missiles

The United States has given no sign of willingness to budge on sanctions and announced the seizure of a North Korean cargo vessel it said was involved in the illicit shipping of coal.
The United States has given no sign of willingness to budge on sanctions and announced the seizure of a North Korean cargo vessel it said was involved in the illicit shipping of coal.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - The United States Defence Department said launches by North Korea earlier on Thursday (May 9) consisted of multiple ballistic missiles that flew in excess of 300km and landed in the ocean.

US President Donald Trump said earlier that "nobody is happy" at the launches, but still appeared to hold the door open for more talks with North Korea.

South Korea said the tests were worrisome and unhelpful and likely a protest against Mr Trump refusing to ease economic sanctions on North Korea at a failed summit in Hanoi in February. The US has given no sign of willingness to budge on sanctions and on Thursday, the US Justice Department announced the seizure of a North Korean cargo vessel it said was involved in the illicit shipping of coal.

North Korea has effectively pulled back from engagement with Washington since the Hanoi meeting between its leader Kim Jong Un and Mr Trump collapsed without agreement on US demands for the dismantling of Pyongyang's nuclear programme and Mr Kim's demands for relief from punishing sanctions.

"The relationship continues... I know they want to negotiate, they're talking about negotiating. But I don't think they're ready to negotiate," Mr Trump told reporters.

Acting US Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan said the US would continue to focus on diplomatic efforts with North Korea.

"We're going to stick to our diplomacy and, as you all know, we haven't changed our operations or our posture and we'll continue to generate the readiness we need in case diplomacy fails," he told reporters outside the Pentagon.

Mr Trump has held up a freeze in missile testing since 2017 as a sign of progress in his talks with North Korea after exchanges of fiery rhetoric two years ago raised fears of war.

North Korea formally announced a freeze in intercontinental ballistic missile and nuclear bomb tests in April last year, and Mr Trump stressed that the missiles fired were not of a kind that could threaten the US.