North Korea fires two short-range ballistic missiles in bid to stop drills

North Korea fired  two short-range ballistic missiles early on Wednesday, just days after it launched two other missiles intended to pressure South Korea and the United States to stop upcoming military drills.

The latest launches were from the Hodo peninsula on North Korea’s east coast, the same area from where last week’s were conducted, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said in a statement. It said it was monitoring in case of additional launches.

The JCS in Seoul said later the North had fired ballistic missiles that flew about 155 miles. South Korean news agency Yonhap said they appeared to be a different type to previous launches.

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.

On July 25 North Korea tested two new missiles, describing the launch as a "solemn warning" against what it described as "South Korean warmongers".

North Korean missile ranges

Harry Kazianis, of Washington’s Centre for the National Interest think tank, said the latest launches were a clear attempt by North Korea to put pressure on Washington.

"For now, it seems any working-level talks between America and North Korea are on hold until the fall, as the Kim regime won’t immediately spring back to diplomacy after this round of tests," he told Reuters.

That firing of the two projectiles was the first missile test since Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, met President Donald Trump on June 30, and agreed to revive denuclearisation talks.

The short-range missiles were fired into the Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea, from Wonsan on North Korea’s east coast.

Mr Kim said his country was forced to develop weapons to "eliminate potential and direct threats".

He said the test involved a new tactical guided weapons system.

Mr Trump last week was at pains to downplay the significance of the July 25 missiles, saying: “They are short-range missiles, and many people have those missiles."

He added that the recent launches involve “very standard missiles.”

Asked on Friday whether he was concerned, Mr Trump – who is still keen to secure a deal with North Korea – replied: “Nope. Not at all.”

Yet the North’s behaviour remains deeply troubling for many nations.

In April, North Korea claimed to have “tested a powerful warhead” in the first public weapons test for the regime since Mr Trump and Mr Kim met for a historic summit in Singapore last year.

The two leaders held a second round of talks in Vietnam in February of this year, but negotiations collapsed after Mr Trump reportedly handed Mr Kim a note demanding he turn over the North’s nuclear weapons and bomb fuel.

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