North Korea continues to test its nuclear weapons, launching two new short-range ballistic missiles into the sea Tuesday, while lamenting the continued U.S-South Korea joint military drills, which Pyongyang claims could derail fragile nuclear diplomacy.
The hermit regime’s fourth weapons test in 13 days comes amid deadlocked nuclear talks with Washington and efforts by President Trump to play down the significance of the launches.
Experts note that the missile tests present a threat to both South Korea and U.S. bases in the region, but that the President’s comments provide the North with room to advance its military capabilities and thus gain leverage prior to the resumption of nuclear talks most likely after the conclusion of the U.S.-South Korea military exercises later this month.
The latest tests were reported by South Korea’s military, which alerted reporters about the launches only minutes before the North Korean Foreign Ministry lashed out at the two allies over the start of their joint exercises on Monday, Politico writes. A statement by the ministry said the drills force Pyongyang to “develop, test and deploy the powerful physical means essential for national defense.”
It further said that the country remains committed to nuclear dialogue but may seek a “new road” if Washington and Seoul do not change their positions.
“It is too axiomatic that a constructive dialogue cannot be expected at a time when a simulated war practice targeted at the dialogue partner is being conducted,” the unnamed spokesperson said in the statement. “We remain unchanged in our stand to resolve the issues through dialogue. But the dynamics of dialogue will be more invisible as long as the hostile military moves continue.”
According to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, the two projectiles the North flew cross-country were likely short-range ballistic missiles, fired from an area near the North’s western coast. The JCS added that the projectiles demonstrated similarities to the short-range missiles launched by North Korea on July 25.
Pyongyang said it would wait to see if the two allies resume the military drills before making a final decision on its diplomacy with the U.S. The launches are widely seen as an attempt by North Korea to strengthen its position ahead of denuclearization talks with Washington, which has refused to agree to sanctions relief in return for partial dismantling of the North’s nuclear weapons program.
The weapons tests aim also to pressure South Korea into persuading the U.S. to concede ground.