World

South Korea says North Korea fired 2 suspected missiles

North Korea on Thursday fired two suspected short-range missiles from the country's western area, South Korea's military said — in what would amount to the North's second weapons launch in the last five days, and a possible warning that nuclear disarmament talks with Washington could be in danger.

South Korean, U.S. authorities trying to find out more about launches

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un wants the U.S. to ease sanctions, but the two countries are at odds over Pyongyang's nuclear arsenal. (KCNA/Reuters)

North Korea on Thursday fired two suspected short-range missiles from the country's western area, South Korea's military said — in what would amount to the North's second weapons launch in the last five days, and a possible warning that nuclear disarmament talks with Washington could be in danger.

The South's Joint Chiefs of Staff said the weapons fired flew 420 kilometres and 270 kilometres, respectively. It said it's working with the United States to find out more details, such as the type of weapons fired.

The South's military said earlier at least one projectile was launched from the Sino-ri area of North Pyongan Province, an area known to host one of North Korea's oldest missile bases where a brigade operates mid-range Rodong missiles. It said later the launch was made from the province's Kusong town, about 40 kilometres from Sino-ri, where the North conducted its first successful flight test of the Hwasong-12 intermediate range missile in May 2017.

The news comes as Stephen Biegun, the U.S. special representative for North Korea, visits South Korea, and hours after the North described its firing of rocket artillery and an apparent short-range ballistic missile on Saturday as a regular and defensive military exercise. The North also ridiculed South Korea for criticizing those launches.

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Chung Eui-yong, South Korea's presidential national security director, has been monitoring the situation while communicating with the Defence Ministry and the Joint Chiefs of Staff by video, according to the presidential Blue House.

There was no immediate comment from North Korea or the U.S.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said North Korea's latest missile launch was probably a subdued protest against the U.S. after a failed summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump in Hanoi in February.

"North Korea seemed to be discontented it could not reach a deal in Hanoi," Moon said in an interview with South Korean broadcaster KBS.

But the North appeared to have refrained from using weapons that directly threaten the United States, Moon said.

Some analysts have said that if the North returns to the kind of longer-range banned weapons that it tested in 2017, when many feared a Washington-Pyongyang standoff could end in war, it will be a strong sign that a frustrated North Korea is turning away from diplomacy.

Longer-range ballistic missile tests, banned by the United Nations and seen as threatening by surrounding countries, would likely result in more sanctions.

The reported launches came hours after the North, through its state media, described its firing of rocket artillery and an apparent short-range ballistic missile on Saturday as a regular and defensive military exercise, and ridiculed South Korea for criticizing the launches.

With files from Reuters

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