Pyongyang conducts its third tests in eight days
According to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, the rockets were fired at 2:59 a.m. and 3:23 a.m. early Friday morning near Yonghung, South Hamgyong Province, into the East Sea. The projectiles flew a distance of approximately 220 kilometers (137 miles) with a peak altitude of 25 kilometers at Mach 6.9, a JCS spokesman said.
This was the third test carried out by the North in eight days. On July 25, two short-range ballistic missiles were fired from near Wonsan, Kangwon Province, and again on Wednesday, Pyongyang claimed it tested a new rocket artillery weapon.
The South’s presidential office held an emergency meeting Friday morning to discuss the launches, presided over by Blue House National Security Office chief Chung Eui-yong. Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo and National Intelligence Service (NIS) chief Suh Hoon also took part in the session. Blue House spokesperson Ko Min-jung said that based on a preliminary analysis, Seoul and Washington believe the projectiles were very likely short-range ballistic missiles.
She added, however, that the projectiles displayed a flight pattern similar to the rockets launched on Wednesday, and that further analysis was needed in order to determine what exactly had been fired.
NIS chief Suh had said just a day earlier at the National Assembly that the North may conduct such a test again in August as part of a continued effort to pressure the United States, as well as beef up its military capacity, before engaging in resumed denuclearization talks.
Controversy surrounded the South Korean military’s initial conclusion that Wednesday’s tests were short-range ballistic missiles, since the North’s state media on Thursday announced the country had actually tested a new type of rocket artillery.
Trump has reacted dismissively to all three tests. “I think it’s very much under control,” Trump told reporters when asked about the newest launch at the White House before departing for a campaign rally. “I have no problem, we’ll see what happens, but these are short-range missiles. They’re very standard.”
Even the White House’s biggest hard-liner on North Korea, National Security Adviser John Bolton, classified Wednesday’s launch as not being in violation of leader Kim Jong-un’s agreements with Trump, which only pertained to intercontinental ballistic missiles.
European countries in the United Nations (UN) Security Council, however, condemned North Korea for violating UN resolutions following a closed-door Security Council meeting after the North’s Wednesday test. In a joint statement, Germany, France and Britain urged Pyongyang to return to “meaningful negotiations” with Washington and “to take concrete steps toward complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization.”
Reopening talks between the United States and North Korea was agreed to by their leaders at their hurriedly arranged meeting in Korea’s demilitarized zone in late June, but no talks have been scheduled amid the North’s public criticisms of Washington and Seoul’s joint military exercises set to kick off this month.
BY SHIM KYU-SEOK [firstname.lastname@example.org]