SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of — South Korea’s military said North Korea fired two unidentified projectiles into its eastern waters on Thursday as it revives its testing activity to expand its military capabilities and pressure the Biden administration amid a stalemate in diplomacy.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the U.S. and South Korean militaries were analyzing the launches that were conducted from an area on the North’s eastern coast. It didn’t immediately say whether they assessed the weapons as ballistic or how far they flew. Japan’s public broadcaster NHK said there were no reports of damage or other effects on Japanese territory.
The launches came a day after U.S. and South Korean officials said the North fired short-range weapons presumed as cruise missiles into its western sea over the weekend.
The North’s weapons demonstrations come amid stalled nuclear negotiations with the United States. Talks faltered after the collapse of Kim Jong Un’s second summit with former President Donald Trump in February 2019 where the Americans rejected North Korean demands for major sanctions relief in exchange for a partial surrender of their nuclear capabilities.
The North has so far ignored the Biden administration’s efforts to reach out, saying it won’t engage in meaningful talks with the U.S. unless Washington abandons what Pyongyang sees as “hostile” policies, which clearly refers to the U.S.-led sanctions and pressure over its nuclear program.
Kim’s powerful sister last week berated the United States over its latest round of combined military exercises with South Korea that ended earlier this month, describing the drills as an invasion rehearsal and warned Washington to “refrain from causing a stink” if it wants to “sleep in peace” for the next four years.
Thursday’s launches came hours before South Korea Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong was to meet with visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Seoul for discussions on North Korea and other regional issues. South Korea’s presidential office said it will hold an emergency National Security Council meeting to discuss the North’s launches.
South Korea’s Defence Ministry said the North’s short-range tests on Sunday were its first missile firings since April 2020. Biden played down those launches, telling reporters, “There’s no new wrinkle in what they did.”
North Korea has a history of testing new U.S. administrations with missile launches and other provocations aimed at forcing the Americans back to the negotiating table.
Since Trump’s first meeting with Kim in Singapore in 2018, the North has not conducted nuclear or long-range missile tests, although analysts believe they have pressed ahead with their programs on both.
The North has continued with short- and medium range missile testing during its suspension of nuclear and long-range tests, expanding its ability to strike targets in South Korea and Japan, including U.S. bases there.
While Kim has vowed to strengthen his nuclear weapons program in recent political speeches, he also tried to give the new U.S. administration an opening by saying that the fate of their relations depends on whether Washington discards what he calls hostile U.S. policies.
During his visit to Seoul last week, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken sternly criticized North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and human rights record and pressed China to use its “tremendous influence” to convince the North to denuclearize.
AP reporter Yuri Kageyama contributed to the story from Tokyo.
Kim Tong-Hyung, The Associated Press