Seoul / North Korea on Tuesday conducted its latest weapons test by firing two short-range projectiles, hours after Pyongyang expressed its readiness to resume denuclearization talks with the United States in late September.
According to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, North Korea fired two unidentified short-range projectiles towards the Sea of Japan – known as the East Sea in the two Koreas between 6.53 and 7.12 am local time.
The projectiles were launched from Kaechon city in South Pyongyang province – located some 75 kilometers (47 miles) north of the capital Pyongyang, a JCS statement said.
The total distance covered by the two projectiles was around 330 kilometers. They reached an altitude of about 50 to 60 kilometers.
The JCS said further details were being analyzed by South Korean and US intelligence agencies.
The JCS and the National Security Council held a meeting after launch and expressed their concerns over Pyongyang’s actions, urging it to cease activities that may lead to escalation of tensions in the region.
This is the 10th test conducted by North Korea this year after a 17-month hiatus by the Kim Jong-un regime during negotiations with the US.
Weapons tests carried out in the last two months coincided with joint military exercises by South Korea and the US that were emphatically protested against the North.
The latest test came only a few hours after North Korea’s first vice foreign minister, Choe Son-hui, in a statement said that Pyongyang was willing to set a date for a discussion with the US later this month.
The statement marked a breakthrough potentially ending a deadlock in nuclear talks between North Korea and the US.
However, the projectile launch soon after Choe’s statement is being interpreted as one more attempt by North Korea to gain leverage and build pressure on starting the dialog.
In the statement released by state-run Korean Central News Agency, Choe said the country was willing “to sit with the US side for comprehensive discussions (on) the issues we have so far taken up at the time and place to be agreed late in September”.
US President Donald Trump spoke about Choe’s statement at a briefing in the White House on Monday but did not confirm whether the two sides will resume talks.
“We’ll see what happens,” said Trump, adding he had always believed that having meetings was a good thing.
North Korea’s offer to restart nuclear negotiations comes after an impromptu June 30 meeting between Trump and Kim at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) dividing the two Koreas. The two had vowed to resume denuclearization negotiations soon.
In her statement Choe said Kim had urged Trump to devise a new “calculation method” by the end of the year to break the deadlock after their February meeting in Vietnam ended abruptly.
“I believe that the US side will come out with a proposal geared to the interests of the DPRK (North Korea) and the US and based on the calculation method acceptable to us,” Choe said.
Despite the projectile launches that seem to be aimed at unsettling Seoul and Tokyo more than Washington, it is believed that Choe words indicate Pyongyang’s readiness to return to the negotiating table.
The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said over the weekend that “President Trump would be very disappointed if chairman Kim doesn’t return to the negotiating table or conducts missile tests that are inconsistent with the agreements that they made when the two of them were together these three times”, referring to the self imposed moratorium by Pyongyang since 2017.
It is believed that if the working-level talks resume soon, it will be led by US Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun and the former North Korean ambassador to Vietnam Kim Myong-gil. (September 10, 2019, EFE/Practica Español)
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