North Korea ups the ante with second missiles test

Updated: May 10, 2019, 10:56 IST | Agencies |

Fires 'two short-range missiles - five days after Saturday's launch even as the US envoy visits South Korea

People watch TV news showing file footage of North Korea's projectile weapons, at a railway station in Seoul on Thursday. Pic/AFP
People watch TV news showing file footage of North Korea's projectile weapons, at a railway station in Seoul on Thursday. Pic/AFP

Seoul: North Korea welcomed a US envoy's visit to Seoul by firing two missiles on Thursday, the South's military said, in Pyongyang's second launch in less than a week as it seeks to up the ante in deadlocked nuclear negotiations with Washington.

It came after North Korea carried out a military drill and fired multiple projectiles on Saturday, when at least one was believed to be a short-range missile. The North had not previously fired a missile since November 2017, shortly before a rapid diplomatic thaw eased high tensions on the peninsula and paved the way for a historic first meeting between its leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump.

North Korea leader Kim Jong-un
North Korea leader Kim Jong-un

But their second summit in Vietnam in February broke up without an agreement rolling back Pyongyang's nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief or even a joint statement, leaving the North frustrated by the stalemate.Thursday's launch came hours after the US Special Representative on North Korea, Stephen Biegun, arrived in Seoul late on Wednesday for talks with South Korean officials on the allies' approach towards Pyongyang, in his first visit since the Hanoi summit.

The North "fired what appeared to be two short-range missiles", Seoul's Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement, adding they flew eastwards for 270 and 420 kilometres (170 and 260 miles) and the South Korean and US militaries were jointly analysing them.

The US envoy is due to meet the South's foreign and unification ministers Friday as the security allies – Washington stations 28,500 troops in the South to defend it from its neighbour – work on their approach towards Pyongyang.

With Thursday's launch, said Hong Min, a senior researcher at Korea Institute for National Unification, "North Korea is sending a clear message that it will not be satisfied with humanitarian aid" being considered by Seoul.

"It is saying, 'We want security guarantees in return for the denuclearisation process'," he added. "Kim could have felt he needed to show a strong military posture to ease complaints following a joint South-US military drill last month."

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