North Korea test ballistic missiles amid deadlocked nuclear talks

An undated picture released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency on March 7, 2017 shows the launch of four ballistic missiles by the Korean People’s Army during a military drill at an undisclosed location in North Korea. (AFP photo)

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — North Korea fired a pair of ballistic missiles off its east coast on Wednesday, South Korea’s military said.

“North Korea fired two unidentified ballistic missiles from its central inland region toward the east coast, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said in a statement, according to Reuters.

“Intelligence authorities of South Korea and the United States are conducting detailed analysis for further information,” it added.

The missiles were fired just after 12:30 p.m. (0330 GMT), flying 800 km (497 miles) to a maximum altitude of 60 km (37 miles), the JCS stated.

The launches came amid a flurry of activity on the peninsula, including high-level diplomatic talks and South Korea’s testing of a newly developed submarine-launched ballistic missile of its own.

North Korea has been steadily developing its weapons systems amid a standoff over talks aimed at dismantling its nuclear and ballistic missile arsenals in return for U.S. sanctions relief. The negotiations, initiated between former U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in 2018, have stalled since 2019.

The U.S. military’s Indo-Pacific Command said North Korea’s missile launches did not pose an immediate threat to a U.S. personnel, territory, or allies, but highlight the destabilizing impact of its illicit weapons programme.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga called the missile launch “outrageous” and strongly condemned it as a threat to peace and security in the region.

Japan’s Coast Guard said the missiles landed outside its exclusive economic zone.

Both Suga and South Korean President Moon Jae-in would convene sessions of their national security councils to discuss the launches, their offices said.

China’s foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a daily briefing that China hoped “relevant parties” would “exercise restraint”.

North Korea this year declared it was seeking to miniaturize nuclear warheads, which could potentially be fitted to tactical missiles.

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