Kim Jong Un
KCNA | Reuters
North Korea on Tuesday continued to ramp up its weapons demonstrations by firing unidentified projectiles twice into the sea while lashing out at the United States and South Korea for continuing their joint military exercises the North says could derail fragile nuclear diplomacy.
South Korea’s military alerted reporters on the launches just minutes before an unidentified spokesperson of the North’s Foreign Ministry released a statement denouncing Washington and Seoul over the start of their joint exercises on Monday. The statement said the drills leave the North “compelled to develop, test and deploy the powerful physical means essential for national defense.”
The North’s spokesperson said Pyongyang remains committed to dialogue, but it could seek a “new road” if the allies don’t change their positions.
Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the projectiles were launched from an area near the North’s western coast and flew cross-country before landing in waters off the country’s eastern coast.
It didn’t immediately say how many projectiles were fired or how far they flew.
The North last week conducted two test-firings of what it described as a new rocket artillery system and conducted a short-range ballistic missile launch on July 25, which it described as a “solemn warning” to South Korea over its plans to continue military drills with the United States. Experts say the North’s weapons display could intensify in the coming months if progress isn’t made on the nuclear talks.
The allies have scaled down their major military exercises and stopped regional dispatches of U.S. strategic assets such as long-range bombers and aircraft carriers since the first summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump June 2018 in Singapore to create space for diplomacy.
The North insists even the downsized drills violate agreements between Kim and Trump, who in Singapore vowed to improve bilateral ties and issued a vague statement on a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula without describing when and how it would occur.
Nuclear negotiations have been at a standstill since the collapse of the second Trump-Kim summit in Vietnam in February over disagreements in exchanging sanctions relief and disarmament.
The North’s recent weapons tests have dampened the optimism that followed the third summit between Trump and Kim on June 30 at the inter-Korean border. The leaders agreed to resume working-level nuclear talks that stalled since February, but there have been no known meetings between the two sides since then.