North Korea Fires Third Round of Weapons Tests

North Korea Fires Third Round of Weapons Tests
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 on Aug. 1, 2019. (KRT via AP Video)

SEOUL, South Korea—North Korea fired what appeared to short-range ballistic missiles twice Friday into the sea off its eastern coast in its third round of weapons tests in just over a week, South Korea’s military and presidential office said.

Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the launches were conducted at 2:59 a.m. and 3:23 a.m. from an eastern coastal area and said the projectiles flew 137 miles (220 kilometers) on an apogee of 15 miles (25 kilometers) and at a max speed of Mach 6.9.

South Korea’s presidential office, which held a meeting presided over by chief national security adviser Chung Eui-yong to discuss the launches, said the South Korean and U.S. militaries shared an assessment that the projectiles were likely newly developed short-range ballistic missiles the North has been testing in recent weeks. However, the office said further analysis was needed because the projectiles showed similar flight characteristics with the weapons that the North test fired on Wednesday and described as a new rocket artillery system.

Kim Eun-han, a spokesman for South Korea’s Unification Ministry, said the Seoul government expressed “deep regret” over launches.

Japan’s Defense Ministry said it was analyzing the launch and that the projectiles did not reach Japanese territorial waters or its exclusive economic zone.

The North fired two short-range missiles into the sea on July 25 and conducted what it described as a test firing of a new multiple rocket launcher system on Wednesday.

North Korea said those tests were designed to deliver a “solemn warning” to South Korea over its purchase of high-tech, U.S.-made fighter jets and the planned military drills, which Pyongyang calls an invasion rehearsal. The North also tested short-range missiles on May 4 and 9.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff assessed the activity as a short-range ballistic missile launch, saying the missiles flew about 250 kilometers (155 miles), a range that would be enough to cover the metropolitan region surrounding capital Seoul, where about half of South Koreans live, and a major U.S. military base just south of the city.

When asked on Thursday if the tests would impact denuclearization talks with Kim, Trump said he would still negotiate as the short-range missiles tested were “very standard” and that “a lot of other countries test those also.”

“We never made an agreement on that,” he said of his talks with Kim on nuclear weapons. “I have no problem. We’ll see what happens.”

The North’s new launches came as the United Kingdom, France and Germany—following a closed U.N. Security Council briefing—condemned the North’s recent ballistic activity as violations of U.N. sanctions and urged Pyongyang to engage in “meaningful negotiations” with the United States on eliminating its nuclear weapons.

The three countries also urged North Korea “to take concrete steps toward its complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization” and said international sanctions should remain in place and be fully enforced until its nuclear and ballistic missile programs are dismantled.

On Thursday, North Korea’s state media said leader Kim Jong Un had supervised the first test firing of a new multiple rocket launcher system he said would soon serve a “main role” in his military’s land combat operations.

Attending an Asian security conference in Bangkok, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday the Trump administration remains ready to resume talks with North Korea now, but said a meeting this week would be unlikely.

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