Pyongyang on Wednesday launched two South Korea ballistic missiles, days after firing two more short-range projectiles to protest joint military exercises between Seoul and Washington.
Missiles fired Wednesday at the dawn of the Wonsan region, on the eastern coast of North Korea, flew about 250 km at an altitude of 30 km before sinking into the East Sea, the name that South Koreans give to the Sea of Japan, said the South Korean Committee of Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“We stress that a series of missile launches are not helping to ease tensions on the Korean peninsula and urge the North to guard against such acts,” he said in a statement.
Pyongyang and Washington have been engaged for more than a year in a diplomatic process to resolve the issue of North Korean nuclear and ballistic programs. It was marked by three meetings between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
During their impromptu interview in June in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that divides the Korean Peninsula, the two men agreed to resume talks.
But this commitment has not materialized and Pyongyang has warned recently that the process could fail if joint maneuvers with the Americans unfolded as planned in August in the South.
- – More shots to wait –
For years, Pyongyang has been developing its nuclear and ballistic programs in defiance of the sanctions voted by the international community, while dragging on the length of diplomatic efforts.
On the way to a regional security forum in Bangkok, where the North Korean issue will certainly be discussed, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters that negotiations were expected “in the coming weeks” but that they were taking “a little more time” to start.
North Korea has not commented on Wednesday’s shooting.
Harry Kazianis, a defense expert at the Center for the National Interest’s conservative think tank, warns the North of South Korea and its American allies to stop joint military exercises at risk. otherwise, Pyongyang “gently raises tensions over time”.
Pyongyang will shoot more before the start of the maneuvers next week and will continue afterwards, predicts Kazianis.
“The only question is whether the Kim regime would dare to test an intercontinental ballistic missile or a long-range missile that could reach US territory,” he adds.
- – “Ignorance” of Trump –
With these short-range missiles, Pyongyang seeks to push the United States to “come to the negotiations with greater willingness to accede to its demands,” said Jeong Young-tae, director of the Institute for Northern Studies. Korean.
Missiles fired last Thursday had traveled a much greater distance than Wednesday -600 km – and flew at a higher altitude, 50 km against 30.
Pyongyang had assured that these projectiles were new tactical weapons constituting “a solemn warning to the South Korean military belligerents” who persist in their willingness to conduct the joint exercises.
Nearly 30,000 American soldiers are deployed in South Korea. The annual exercises they conduct with tens of thousands of South Korean soldiers never fail to irritate Pyongyang. The North sees them as the general repetition of an invasion of its territory.
Donald Trump downplayed the new shots on Friday, saying it was a “warning” to Seoul, but not to Washington. North and South “have their differences,” he added.
In an editorial, the Korea Times on Tuesday condemned “the willful ignorance” of the US leader.
Mr. Trump “gives the impression that he does not care if missiles are launched as long as they are short-range and do not threaten the United States,” writes the newspaper.
“Such a way of thinking is unfortunate and dangerous,” he continues. “It can give an indication to the North that the United States will not intervene until the American territory is targeted.” What about American allies in Asia? “