SEOUL: North Korea fired two suspected missiles into the sea between the Korean peninsula and Japan, according to military officials in Japan and South Korea, ending nearly a month-long lull in testing after denuclearisation talks stalled.
The launches, which Japanese authorities identified as likely ballistic missiles, were the first since one day of talks between the United States and North Korea ended without an agreement on Oct. 5 in Sweden.
American officials have played down previous missile launches this year, saying they were short-range weapons.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has set an end-of-the-year deadline for denuclearisation talks with Washington, however, and in a statement on Sunday North Korea said it would be a mistake for the United States to ignore that deadline.
A US State Department spokesman said: “We are aware of reports of a North Korean missile launch. We are continuing to monitor the situation and consulting closely with our allies in Japan and South Korea.”
Analysts said the launches underscore how tense the situation has become after three meetings between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump – unprecedented top-level contact between the countries – failed to lead to any agreement over North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes.
“Make no mistake, if there is no change in the current trajectory of U.S.-North Korea relations there is only one possible outcome: a long-range missile or nuclear weapons test by Pyongyang that will spark a crisis just like in 2017,” said Harry Kazianis, senior director of Korean Studies at the Center for the National Interest in Washington.