North Korea fired several unidentified short-range weapons off the country’s east coast into the Sea of Japan on Saturday morning, according to South Korea’s Defense Ministry.
South Korea said the projectiles were launched shortly after 9 a.m. local time and flew 70 to 200 kilometers before crashing into the sea, The Associated Press reported.
U.S. and South Korean defense officials are investigating the launch of the “projectiles,” the latest weapons test by North Korea as negotiations with the U.S. to denuclearize the East Asian country stall. National security adviser John Bolton briefed President Donald Trump Friday night, a senior administration official told The Wall Street Journal.
“Anything in this very interesting world is possible, but I believe that Kim Jong Un fully realizes the great economic potential of North Korea, & will do nothing to interfere or end it. He also knows that I am with him & does not want to break his promise to me. Deal will happen!” Trump tweeted Saturday.
Officials could not readily determine whether North Korea had broken its self-imposed ban on testing long-range or ballistic missiles. The last test of such a weapon was in November 2017. Officials are working to identify the nature of the weapons launched.
Experts say the weapons test could be a bid by North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un to pressure the U.S. during talks, according to the AP. The Trump administration has applied economic sanctions on North Korea to use as leverage in peace talks.
“Clearly, Pyongyang is frustrated with the conclusion of the recent summit with Washington in Vietnam that did not produce any breakthrough,” Center for the National Interest director Harry J. Kazianis told The New York Times. “It also seems clear that North Korea is angry over what appears to be a lack of flexibility in the Trump administration’s position on relieving sanctions, sticking to a policy of ‘maximum pressure.’”
The weapons test, while a flashy display of power for Kim’s subjects, may be a sign that Kim is growing anxious to improve talks with the U.S., Korea Institute for Military Affairs researcher Yoon Suk-joon, a retired South Korea navy captain, told WSJ.
“Kim Jong Un is completely cornered,” Yoon said. “He’s trying to grab Trump’s attention.”
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