SEOUL • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said his country's latest launch of tactical guided missiles was a warning to the United States and South Korea over their joint military drills that began this week, state media KCNA reported yesterday.
Tuesday's missile launch, North Korea's fourth in less than two weeks, came amid stalled denuclearisation talks with Washington and US-South Korea military exercises, although Washington and Seoul played down the tests.
Mr Kim said the latest missile test was "an occasion to send an adequate warning to the joint military drill now under way by the US and South Korean authorities", according to KCNA.
The "new-type tactical guided missiles", launched from the western area of North Korea, flew across the peninsula over the capital and the central inland region to "precisely hit the targeted islet" in the sea off the North's east coast, KCNA said. Its report confirmed the South Korean military's analysis of their trajectories on Tuesday.
The launches "clearly verified the reliability, security and actual war capacity" of the weapon, KCNA said, echoing analysts who said the launches showed North Korea's confidence in its missile technology.
Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump also said yesterday that discussions have begun with South Korea, aimed at getting the country to pay more for the cost of maintaining US troops in the region to guard against any threat from North Korea.
"Talks have begun to further increase payments to the United States. South Korea is a very wealthy nation that now feels an obligation to contribute to the military defence provided by the United States of America," Mr Trump said in a Twitter post.
Mr Trump has repeatedly said Seoul should bear more of the burden of keeping some 28,500 US troops stationed in South Korea, where the US has had a military presence since the Korean War between 1950 and 1953.
South Korean and US officials signed an agreement in February, under which Seoul would raise its contribution to just under 1.04 trillion won (S$1.18 billion), an increase of about US$70 million (S$97 million).
The US and South Korea kicked off their largely computer-simulated Dong Maeng or "alliance" exercises this week as an alternative to previous large-scale annual drills that were halted to expedite denuclearisation talks.
North Korea decries such exercises as a rehearsal for war aimed at toppling its leadership.
US and South Korean militaries are planning to stage a joint exercise this month as well.
US Defence Secretary Mark Esper, on his first tour of Asia ahead of his trip to Seoul, said during a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo that North Korea remained of great concern. Mr Esper said on Tuesday the US would not overreact to the missile tests.
Mr Lee Sang-min, a spokesman for South Korea's Unification Ministry that handles inter-Korean ties, urged North Korea to stop the tests and explore confidence-building measures.