North Korea fires two ballistic missiles for second time in a week


A woman walks past a television news screen showing file footage of a North Korean missile launch, at a railway station in Seoul on July 25, 2019. (Photo by Jung Yeon-je / AFP) (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)

Wed 31 July 2019:

Two projectiles flew about 250km as Pyongyang intensifies pressure on the US to start up new denuclearisation talks.

North Korea conducted its second weapons test in less than a week on Wednesday, firing two short-range ballistic missiles off its east coast in a move observers say could be aimed at boosting pressure on the US to set up new denuclearisation talks.

The projectiles were launched early from the Hodo Peninsula in South Hamgyong province on North Korea’s east coast, according to South Korea’s military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) .

The two missiles “flew around 250km at an altitude of 30km before falling into the East Sea”, also known as the Sea of Japan, JCS said.

South Korean officials said the two missiles appeared to be of a different type than those launched on Thursday. The JCS said it was monitoring the situation in case of additional launches and is on standby, Yonhap added.

“The North’s repeated missile launches are not helpful to an effort to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula and we urge [North Korea] to stop this kind of behaviour,” a JCS statement said. Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride, reporting from Seoul said, said the missiles were fired 20 minutes apart.

“As always with North Korea, all of these launches are carefully calculated so you have to look at why they are making this statement now, and why it is having this test firing,” McBride said. 

He added Pyongyang may be expressing its displeasure over planned joint military exercises between the United States and South Korea in the coming month.

The test would be yet another North Korean violation of UN Security Council resolutions and comes as the country’s negotiations with the US over its nuclear weapons programme are at a stalemate.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the launches were “no threat to Japanese national security”.

Colonel Lee Peters, a spokesman for US military forces in South Korea, said: “We are aware of reports of a missile launch from North Korea and we will continue to monitor the situation.”

He did not comment when asked whether the joint South Korea-US drills, scheduled to begin next month, would continue.

Last week, North Korea test-fired two new short-range ballistic missiles, its first missile test since leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump met last month and agreed to revive denuclearisation talks.

Both Trump and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo played down last week’s launches and Pompeo has continued to express hope for a diplomatic way forward with North Korea.

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