North Korea test-fired two short-range missiles into the sea on Saturday as the U.S. and South Korea wrapped up joint military exercises in the region, the Daily Caller reported. It is the nation’s fourth launch in less than two weeks and its seventh in a month.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un previously indicated that he would return to talks about denuclearization with President Donald Trump, but that has not yet occurred. The two leaders have been at an impasse, with Kim demanding the U.S. lift sanctions first, and Trump insisting that the two reach a deal before sanctions are lifted.
For its part, South Korea has called the launches a “grave concern,” saying: “Our military is monitoring the situation in case of additional launches and maintaining a readiness posture.”
Japan has also expressed concern about the frequent launches, some of which have passed over Japan before hitting international waters. The launches came just days after South Korea announced it would end an intelligence deal with Japan to share information about North Korean actions in November when it expires.
Trump Reacts to Test-Fire
For his part, Trump downplayed the North Korean launch, saying that the U.S. hasn’t restricted short-range missile launches. He indicated a “wait and see” approach.
“Kim Jong Un has been, you know, pretty straight with me,” Trump told reporters. “He likes testing missiles but we never restricted short-range missiles. We’ll see what happens.”
Kim had indicated that he would stop launches after the completion of the joint exercises, which he saw as a threat to North Korea and unnecessary. He may be indicating his displeasure that the U.S. and South Korea chose to conduct the exercises over his strong objections.
“Poisonous Plant” Pompeo
Some experts see the frequent launches as an attempt by North Korea to flex its muscles ahead of talks with the U.S. and keep the pressure on to remove sanctions.
On Friday, North Korea Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho called U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo a “poisonous plant of American diplomacy” and expressed a desire to “shutter the absurd dream” that sanctions will be successful against Pyongyang.
Ri also said North Korea would make efforts to remain “America’s biggest threat” as long as sanctions continue.
Meanwhile, South Korea has said that it will increase diplomatic pressure on North Korea to return to talks with the U.S., according to ABC News.
In addition, top North Korean envoy Stephen Biegun said on Wednesday that the U.S. was ready to resume talks with North Korea. But the U.S. has gotten no response so far other than Saturday’s missile launch.