North Korea at it again and fires two ‘unidentified projectiles’

Thursday's launch was the latest in a series of weapons tests by Pyongyang, which fired what it called two "super-large multiple rocket launcher" systems last month.

North Korea fired two “unidentified projectiles” on Thursday — the Thanksgiving holiday in the US — Seoul said, as nuclear talks between Pyongyang and Washington remain deadlocked.

The brief statement from the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said Pyongyang fired two projectiles eastwards from South Hamgyong province which came down in the Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea.

It said the launch was carried out at 16:59 pm local time — or the early hours in Washington DC, on one of the US’ biggest annual holidays.

It was also one day short of the two-year anniversary of its first test of its Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile, which analysts say is capable of reaching the entire US mainland.

Japan’s defence ministry described the projectiles as “ballistic missile-like” but said they did not come down in the country’s exclusive economic zone.

Pyongyang is banned from firing ballistic missiles under UN Security Council resolutions.

Thursday’s launch was the latest in a series of weapons tests by Pyongyang, which fired what it called two “super-large multiple rocket launcher” systems last month.

US President Donald Trump has played down the recent launches, repeatedly pointing to North Korea’s moratorium on nuclear tests and intercontinental ballistic missile launches as foreign policy successes for him.

Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un adopted a vaguely-worded statement on the “complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula” at their first summit in Singapore in June last year, but little progress has since been made.

Negotiations have been gridlocked since a second summit between the pair in Hanoi in February collapsed without a deal.

North Korea is under multiple sets of international sanctions over its nuclear weapon and ballistic missile programmes and lifting some of them was a key demand at the Hanoi summit.

Trump and Kim then agreed to restart working-level talks during a brief meeting at the Demilitarised Zone dividing the peninsula in June and the two sides met in Sweden in October, only for Pyongyang to walk away.

Earlier this month, Seoul and Washington said they would postpone planned joint military exercises to ease diplomacy with the North, an announcement Pyongyang dismissed.

The North has long condemned the joint drills, which it condemns as preparations for invasion, and carried out multiple missile launches in the summer in protest as the allies carried out their annual exercises.

North Korea has issued a series of increasingly assertive comments in recent weeks as its end-of-year deadline for the US to come up with a fresh offer approaches.

Trump hinted at the prospect of a fourth meeting with Kim in a tweet earlier this month, only to be rebuffed by the North, which said it had no interest in summits “that bring nothing to us”.

© Agence France-Presse