SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea fired multiple unidentified projectiles early on Wednesday, less than a week after firing two new short-range ballistic missiles, the South Korean military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said.
The latest launches were from the Hodo peninsula on North Korea’s east coast, the same area from where last week’s were conducted, the JCS said in a statement. It said it was monitoring the situation in case of additional launches and maintaining a readiness posture.
North Korea test-fired two new short-range ballistic missiles on July 25, its first missile tests since leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump met in late June and agreed to revive stalled denuclearisation talks.
The White House, the Pentagon and the U.S. State Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Both Trump and U.S. 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.
Since Trump and Kim’s June 30 meeting in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between the two Koreas, Pyongyang has accused Washington of breaking a promise by planning to hold joint military exercises with South Korea next month and warned that these could derail any dialogue.
North Korea has also warned of a possible end to its freeze on nuclear and long-range missile tests in place since 2017, which Trump has repeatedly upheld as evidence of the success of his engagement with Kim.
A top South Korean official said last month the drills would go ahead as planned but would largely involve computer simulations and not troops in the field.
A February summit in Vietnam between Trump and Kim collapsed after the two sides failed to reconcile differences between Washington’s demands for Pyongyang’s complete denuclearisation and North Korean demands for sanctions relief.
Trump reiterated to reporters at the White House earlier on Tuesday he had a good relationship with Kim, but added: “We’ll see what happens. I can’t tell you what’s going to happen.”
Pompeo said on Monday he hoped working-level talks to revive denuclearisation talks could occur “very soon.”
On Tuesday, he told reporters traveling with him on a visit to Asia he did not know when this would happen, but hoped the U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun and his new counterpart could meet “before too long.”
Pompeo and North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho had been expected to meet on the sidelines of a Southeast Asia security forum in Bangkok this week, but Ri canceled his trip to the conference, a diplomatic source said told Reuters last week.
On Tuesday, Pompeo said he did not anticipate that the North Koreans would be in Bangkok, but if they were he would look forward to a chance to meet Ri.
“We’ll see if they are there and if they are I’m confident we will meet.”
A senior U.S. administration official said earlier on Tuesday that a North Korean official told a White House National Security Council counterpart last week that working-level talks would start very soon.
The NSC official, who was in Asia for unrelated talks, traveled to the DMZ to deliver photographs commemorating the June 30 summit, the senior administration official told reporters.
Harry Kazianis, of Washington’s Center 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 said.
Other analysts have said that North Korea will have been emboldened to press more aggressively for U.S. concessions by Trump’s apparent eagerness to hold up his engagement with North Korea as a foreign policy success ahead of his 2020 reelection bid.
(This story refiles to correct military exercises due next month not this month in paragraph six)
(Reporting by Eric Beech and Davdi Brunnstrom in Washington; Editing by Mohammad Zargham and Sonya Hepinstall)