North Korea fired short-range missiles off its east coast early on Wednesday, July 31, a move regarded as a possible negotiating tactic ahead its potential nuclear talks with the United States.
Seoul-based Yonhap News citing South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said North Korea launched two short-range missiles, one at 5:06 a.m. and another at 5:27 a.m. (local time), from the Kalma area near its eastern port of Wonsan.
The projectiles flew an estimate of 250 kilometers (155 miles) at an approximate altitude of 30 km, (18 miles) the Joint Chiefs said, making it the second such launch in less than a week.
South Korea’s Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo said North Korea should be regarded as an “enemy” if it carries out provocations against the South, but the U.S. State Department just responded cautiously.
“We are aware of reports of a missile launch from North Korea, and we will continue to monitor the situation,” a department representative said.
News about the latest missile launches comes several hours after The Associated Press reported that President Donald Trump had sent mementos from his June visit to the Demilitarized Zone to Kim Jong Un.
AP, citing a senior administration official said a top staffer from the National Security Council hand-delivered photographs from the Trump-Kim meeting last month to a North Korean official last week.
Asked when North Korea would be willing to restart nuclear talks, the North Korean official said they would be willing to restart discussions very soon.
That echoes comments by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who also said on Monday he hoped the discussions on denuclearization in the Korean Peninsula will resume “very soon.”
In an interview with Bloomberg on last Thursday, after North Korea also tested two short-range missiles, Pompeo said there was no reason for concern as it was just a negotiating tactic from Pyongyang that allowed the talks to move forward.
“Everybody tries to get ready for negotiations and create leverage and create risk for the other side,” he said. “We remain convinced that there’s a diplomatic way forward, a negotiated solution to this.”
In the meeting at the inter-Korean border late last month, President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un agreed to restart working-level talks on dismantling the North’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
Answering questions following last week’s missile launches, President Trump said, “Not at all” after one reporter commented the president did not seem surprised by the tests.
“Many people have those missiles,” the president said, and referring to Kim,“Well, he didn’t say a warning to the United States. I can tell you that. He didn’t send a warning to the United States.”
“They’re short-range missiles—and very standard missiles,” President Trump added.
On Tuesday, President Trump still insisted his “relationship with Kim Jong Un is a very good one.”