Asia-Pacific

North Korea suspected missiles a 'message' to the West, experts say

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At least two short-range ballistic missiles have been fired from North Korea's eastern coast, in what experts are saying is a warning urging the West to lift its sanctions on the country.

North Korea fired at least two projectiles early on Thursday from its eastern coast in a move aimed at pressuring the West to lift harmful economic sanctions, experts said.

Japanese government sources confirmed the weapons were short-range ballistic missiles, local media reported. 

The projectiles launched from near Wonsan flew about 430km to the east, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

A Japanese government source told Kyodo the missiles did not reach Japan’s exclusive economic zone and had no impact on Japan’s national security.

US President Donald Trump is meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at the Pan-Moon Joint Security Area (JSA) military demarcation line.
US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
(Photo credit Sipa USA)

National security expert Clive Williams told SBS News Thursday's developments were not "particularly threatening" but a way of keeping the pressure on the West to lift its economic sanctions on the regime.

He added that at the moment, North Korea is incapable of firing a warhead further than Japan.

North Korea expert Leonid Petrov agreed that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's primary goal was the alleviation of sanctions, but warned that if they are not lifted, North Korea would continue down the path of nuclear development.

"The United States is going to read the message and understand that North Korea is not going to disarm unilaterally unless sanctions are lifted and security assurances are provided to North Korea and diplomatic recognition is offered," he told SBS News.

"Sooner or later, if the sanctions are not lifted, North Korean's will begin testing their nuclear weapons."

North Korea expert Leonid Petrov.
North Korea expert Leonid Petrov.

The latest test has cast new doubts on efforts to restart denuclearisation talks after US President Donald Trump and Mr Kim met at the demilitarised zone (DMZ) at the end of June.

The White House, Pentagon and US State Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

A senior US administration official said: “We are aware of reports of a short-range projectile launched from North Korea. We have no further comment.”

Mr Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton, who has taken a hard-line toward North Korea, made no mention of the launches in a tweet on Thursday morning after a visit to South Korea, referring only to “productive meetings” with South Korean officials on regional security and building a stronger alliance. 

The United States and North Korea vowed to soon hold new rounds of working-level talks, but Pyongyang has since sharply criticised upcoming joint military drills by US and South Korean troops.

North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said earlier this month that Washington’s pattern of “unilaterally reneging on its commitments” by holding military exercises with South Korea was leading Pyongyang to reconsider its own commitments to discontinue tests of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles.

“North Korea is clearly upset that the US and South Korea are conducting joint military exercises,” said Harry Kazianis of Washington’s Center for the National Interest.

“We should not be shocked by this move and, in fact, we should have seen it coming.”

Additional reporting: Jessica Washington

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