North Korea fired three unidentified projectiles off its east coast on Monday, South Korea’s military said, two days after the North threatened to take “momentous” action to protest outside condemnation over its earlier live-fire exercises.
Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement it detected the three launches made from an eastern coastal town in the North’s South Hamgyong province. It said South Korea’s military is monitoring North Korea for possible additional launches.
In the past 10 days, North Korea has said leader Kim Jong Un supervised two rounds of live-fire artillery exercises in its first weapons tests since late November. Kim had entered the new year with a vow to bolster his nuclear deterrent and not to be bound by a major weapons test moratorium amid a deadlock in a U.S.-led diplomacy aimed at convincing Kim to abandon his nuclear program in return for economic and political benefits.
South Korea and some European countries protested against the second North Korea drills, which they believe involved ballistic missile launches in a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.
North Korea has lashed out at the outside criticism, saying it has the right to conduct military drills in the face of U.S. and South Korean forces on its doorstep.
The U.N. Security Council didn’t issue any statement after discussing North Korea’s March 1 launches last week, but five European members condemned what they called “provocative actions.”
Belgium, Estonia, France, Germany and the United Kingdom, which called for the closed-door meeting, said in a joint statement afterward that the tests undermine regional and international peace, security and stability and violate unanimous Security Council resolutions.
The North’s Foreign Ministry on Saturday accused the five European countries of “repeating an absurd argument of condemnation and violation resolutions of the U.N. whenever we conducted military drills.”
“The illogical thinking and sophism of these countries are just gradually bearing a close resemblance to the U.S. which is hostile to us,” a ministry statement said. “The reckless behavior of these countries instigated by the U.S. will become a fuse that will trigger our yet another momentous reaction.”
Last week, Kim Jong Un’s younger sister leveled diatribes and crude insults against South Korea for criticizing its earlier live-fire exercises, but her statement was followed by Kim sending a letter to South Korean President Moon Jae-in expressing condolences over its coronavirus outbreak.
Some experts say North Korea may intend to catch South Korea off balance before seeking help in reviving its dilapidated economy, since the U.S. has said sanctions on North Korea will stay in place unless it takes significant steps toward denuclearization.
Nuclear talks between Pyongyang and Washington remain stalled since the second summit between Kim and President Donald Trump in Hanoi, Vietnam, in early 2019 ended without any agreement.
Subsequent talks between the two countries failed to produce much progress amid disputes over how much sanctions relief should be given in return for a limited step to move away from nuclear weapons by North Korea.
Source: Associated Press – HYUNG-JIN KIM