North Korea has carried out a new projectile launch, US officials say, adding that initial information indicated the launches were similar to two recent short-range tests carried out by Pyongyang.
South Korea’s military said unidentified short-range projectiles were fired at 2.59am and 3.23am local time on Friday from North Korea’s South Hamgyong Province into the East Sea.
“We are monitoring the situation in case of additional launches and maintaining a readiness posture,” South Korea’s Yonhap news agency quotes the country’s joint chiefs of staff as saying.
A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said at least one projectile was detected that did not pose a threat to North America although there could have been multiple projectiles.
North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles early on Wednesday, only days after it launched two similar missiles on July 25.
US President Donald Trump played down the launches when asked about them at the White House just after news broke about the latest projectile launch.
Asked whether North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was testing him by carrying out a third missile test in recent days, Mr Trump told reporters: “I think it’s very much under control, very much under control.”
Mr Trump added the missile launches did not violate any promises Mr Kim had made to him.
They were “short-range missiles”, Mr Trump said. “We never made an agreement on that. I have no problem. We’ll see what happens. But these are short range missiles. They are very standard.”
Earlier on Thursday and before the latest launch, US National Security Adviser John Bolton said North Korea’s latest missile launches did not violate a pledge that Mr Kim made to Mr Trump not to test long-range missiles and nuclear weapons.
The two leaders agreed at a June 30 meeting to revive stalled denuclearisation talks but efforts to resume the negotiations remain in doubt.
Diplomats have crisscrossed the region this week in the hope of restarting the talks and the North Korea launches have appeared intended to put pressure on South Korea and the US to stop planned military exercises and offer other concessions.
A summit between Mr Trump and Mr Kim in Vietnam in February collapsed after the two sides failed to reconcile differences between US demands for North Korea’s complete denuclearisation and North Korean demands for sanctions relief.
Bolton told Fox Business Network that while the launches did not violate Kim’s pledge, “You have to ask when the real diplomacy is going to begin, when the working-level discussions on denuclearisation will begin.”
“We’ve been waiting to hear since June the 30th,” he told the network in a subsequent interview. “We’re ready for working-level negotiations. The president’s ready, when the time is right, for another summit. Let’s hear from North Korea.”
On Thursday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he hoped talks would start soon, though he “regretted” that a highly anticipated meeting with North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho would not take place in Thailand this week.
“We stand ready to continue our diplomatic conversation,” Mr Pompeo told a news conference in Bangkok, adding that he was optimistic Mr Kim would deploy his team for working-level talks “before too long”.
At the United Nations on Thursday, Britain, France and Germany called on North Korea to engage in “meaningful” talks with the US and said international sanctions needed to be fully enforced until Pyongyang dismantled its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
Their statement came after a closed-door UN Security Council meeting on the latest launches.