SEOUL, South Korea—North Korea on Saturday extended a recent streak of weapons displays by firing what appeared to be two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea, according to South Korea’s military.
The fifth round of launches in less than three weeks was likely another protest at the continuance of U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises that the North says are aimed at a northward invasion.
The South’s military alerted reporters to the launches hours after President Donald Trump said he received a “beautiful” three-page letter from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and predicted that they will have more talks to try resolving the nuclear standoff. Trump reiterated that he was not bothered by the flurry of short-range weapons Kim has launched despite the growing threat they pose to U.S. allies in the region, saying Pyongyang has never broken its pledge to pause nuclear tests.
Hours after the latest launches, Trump tweeted that Kim spent much of his letter complaining about “the ridiculous and expensive” U.S.-South Korea military exercises. He said that Kim offered him “a small apology” for the flurry of missile tests, and that he assured him they would stop when the exercises end.
Trump said that Kim wants to meet once again to “start negotiations” after the drills conclude, and that he’s looking “forward to seeing Kim Jong Un in the not too distant future!”
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the presumed ballistic missiles were fired from the North’s east coast and flew about 248 miles on an apogee of 30 miles, before landing in waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan.
Seoul’s presidential Blue House said the tests were likely aimed at verifying the reliability of the North’s newly developed weapons and also demonstrating displeasure over the military drills.
North Korea has unleashed a series of test firings of short-range weapons in recent weeks while saying that the joint military drills between the allies compel it to “develop, test and deploy the powerful physical means essential for national defense.”
The North did not immediately comment on the launches. South Korea has said the weapons tests don’t help efforts to stabilize peace and called for Pyongyang to uphold an inter-Korean agreement reached last year to form a joint military committee to discuss reducing military tensions.
The missile tests come amid stalled talks on the North’s nuclear program. So far, North Korea has stuck by its unilateral suspension of nuclear and long-range missile tests, which came during a diplomatic outreach by President Trump last year.
The North described recent test-firings as a new rocket artillery system and short-range ballistic missile launches. The North’s state media said that Kim, while supervising a live-fire demonstration of newly developed, short-range ballistic missiles on Tuesday, said the launches were intended to send a warning to Washington and Seoul over their military drills.
The allies have scaled down their major military exercises since the first summit between Kim and Trump in June 2018 in Singapore created space for diplomacy.
By Kim Jung-Yoon And Kim Tong-Hyung