North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles early yesterday, the South Korean military said, only days after it launched two similar missiles intended to pressure South Korea and the United States to stop upcoming military drills.
The firings follow launches on July 25, North Korea’s first missile tests since leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump met on June 30 and agreed to revive stalled denuclearisation talks.
The series of missile tests raises the stakes for US and South Korean diplomats criss-crossing the region this week in the hope of restarting talks aimed at persuading Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes.
“North Korea’s actions do not help ease military tensions, nor do they help keep the momentum for talks that are under way,” South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha told reporters in Seoul before leaving for a Southeast Asian security forum in Bangkok.
Kang urged North Korea to halt the missile launches.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the top US North Korea negotiator were also headed to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Regional Forum in the Thai capital, where Pompeo said he was holding out hope that US officials could meet North Korean counterparts.
Trump and Pompeo both played down last week’s launches and Pompeo has continued to express hope for a diplomatic way forward with North Korea.
The latest launch comes ahead of newly appointed US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper’s first official visit to Seoul, which the Pentagon said on Tuesday was scheduled as part of a tour through Asia in August.