July 27, 2019 08:09
North Korea has formally announced its latest ballistic missile test, saying the launch was a warning to "military warmongers" in South Korea who are set to soon hold joint military exercises with the United States.
North Korean state media showed pictures of Kim Jong-un personally supervising the Thursday test of what it called a "new-type tactical guided weapon." U.S. and South Korean officials say the projectile was a short-range ballistic missile.
The official [North] Korean Central News Agency said the test was meant "to send a solemn warning to the south Korean military warmongers who are running high fever in their moves to introduce the ultramodern offensive weapons into south Korea and hold military exercise in defiance of the repeated warnings."
◆ Complaints About South Korea
The test raises fresh doubts about working-level nuclear talks that were supposed to resume shortly after last month's meeting between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump at the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas.
North Korea has ignored U.S. requests to restart the talks. Instead, it has repeatedly complained about South Korea's recent acquisition of U.S. F-35 fighter jets, as well as upcoming U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises.
Kim on Thursday accused South Korean authorities of "strange double-dealing behavior" for acquiring "ultra-modern offensive weapons and holding joint military exercises," according to KCNA.
South Korea's National Security Council expressed "strong concern" about the launch, which it determined was a "new type of short-range ballistic missile." That is firmer than Seoul's response after a similar North Korean launch in May. At the time, South Korea referred to the North Korean weapons as "projectiles."
◆ Missile Label
South Korea's government may have felt more comfortable labeling the latest North Korean weapon as a missile rather than a projectile, because this time Seoul feels more confident its priorities are aligned with Washington's, Song Young-gil, a South Korean lawmaker and member of the ruling Minjoo Party, told VOA.
"President Trump made that clear before [this launch,] and helped establish a clear path for dealing with this issue. There is a consensus that short-range missile launches are a usual drill and that we should not make it a major issue," said Song, who serves on the National Assembly's Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee.
The U.S. military command in South Korea also assessed that North Korea tested a "new type of missile... These two short range ballistic missiles were not a threat directed at [South Korea] or the U.S., and have no impact on our defense posture," the statement said.
◆ Trump, Pompeo Optimistic
In an interview with the U.S. cable network Fox News, Trump was optimistic, saying he still gets along "very well" with Kim. "They haven't done nuclear testing. They really haven't tested missiles other than, you know, smaller ones. Which is something that lots test," Trump said.
In an earlier interview with Fox News, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he still believes negotiations will start soon. "We're working our way towards that. I think we'll be able to pull that off in just a handful of weeks," Pompeo said.
"North Korea has engaged in activity before we were having diplomatic conversations far worse than this... I think this allows negotiations to go forward. Lots of countries posture before they come to the table," he said.
Asked about Kim's unveiling Tuesday of a newly built submarine that is apparently capable of handling nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles, Pompeo said, "We all go look at our militaries. And we all take pictures of them."
◆ UN Resolution
Under United Nations Security Council resolutions, North Korea is banned from conducting any ballistic missile activity. But Trump administration officials have said they do not see North Korea's short-range tests as a breach of trust.
Kim last year declared a moratorium on intercontinental ballistic missile and nuclear tests. During their meeting at the DMZ last month, Kim also promised Trump that he would "continue to avoid launching intermediate range and long-range ballistic missiles," Pompeo said Thursday.
At a State Department briefing Thursday, spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said the Trump administration's focus is on continued diplomatic engagement with North Korea.
"And we continue to urge the North Koreans to resolve all of the things that the president and Chairman Kim [Jong-un] have talked about through diplomacy. We urge no more provocations, and that all parties should abide by our obligations under Security Council resolutions."
Trump and Kim have held three meetings since June of last year. At their first meeting, both men agreed to work toward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. But neither side has agreed on what that idea means or how to work toward it.
North Korea wants the United States to provide security guarantees and relax sanctions in exchange for partial steps to dismantle its nuclear program. Washington has insisted it will not ease sanctions unless Pyongyang commits to totally abandoning its nuclear program.
North Korea has given the United States until the end of the year to change its approach to the talks. Trump insists he is in no hurry to reach a deal, insisting his friendship with Kim will eventually persuade the young North Korean leader to give up his nuclear weapons.
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