Asia-Pacific

North Korea is conducting new projectile launches, US officials confirm

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North Korea’s latest missile launches threaten efforts to resume denuclearization talks.

North Korea has carried out a new projectile launch, US officials said on Thursday, 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.   

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, equipped with binoculars, supervises a rocket launch test.

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. He told reporters he was not worried at they were short-range and “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 North Korean leader Kim Jong Un 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 denuclearization talks, but efforts to resume the negotiations remain in doubt.

This image made from video of a still image broadcasted by North Korea's KRT shows a rocket soaring during a test in North Korea.

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 United States to stop planned military exercises and offer other concessions. 

A summit between Mr Trump and Kim in Vietnam in February collapsed after the two sides failed to reconcile differences between US demands for North Korea’s complete denuclearization and North Korean demands for sanctions relief.

Mr 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 denuclearization 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.

In this image made from video of a still image broadcasted by North Korea's KRT North Korean leader Kim Jong Un supervises a rocket launch test.

Mr Ri has canceled a trip to an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) conference in Bangkok that Pompeo is attending.

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