North Korea fires projectiles for third time in eight days, South says

Seoul, South Korea — North Korea fired what appeared to be short-range ballistic missiles into the sea off its eastern coast twice on Friday, South Korea’s military and presidential office said. It was Pyongyang’s third round of weapons tests in just over a week.

The increased testing activity is seen as brinkmanship aimed at increasing pressure on Seoul and Washington over stalled nuclear negotiations. North Korea also has expressed frustration over planned U.S.-South Korea military exercises, and experts say its weapons displays could intensify in coming months if progress on the nuclear negotiations isn’t made.By test-firing weapons that directly threaten South Korea but not the U.S. mainland or its Pacific territories, Pyongyang may also be trying to dial up pressure on Seoul and test how much of the North’s bellicosity Washington will tolerate without actually scrapping the nuclear negotiations.
Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the launches were conducted at 2:59 a.m. and 3:23 a.m. from an eastern coastal area and said the projectiles flew 137 miles on an apogee of 15 miles and at a max speed of Mach 6.9.South Korea’s presidential office, which held an emergency meeting presided over by chief national security adviser Chung Eui-yong to discuss the launches, said the South Korean and U.S. militaries shared an assessment that the projectiles were likely newly developed short-range ballistic missiles the North has been testing in recent weeks. However, the office said further analysis was needed because the projectiles showed similar flight characteristics with the weapons that the North test fired on Wednesday and described as a new rocket artillery system.Kim Eun-han, a spokesman for South Korea’s Unification Ministry, said the Seoul government expressed “deep regret” over launches, which it believes could hurt efforts for peace on the Korean Peninsula.Japan’s Defense Ministry said it was analyzing the launch and that the projectiles did not reach Japanese territorial waters or its exclusive economic zone.In Bangkok, Thailand Friday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters, “You should never doubt what we may be communicating to the North Koreans. There are conversations going on, goodness, even as we speak.  But the diplomatic path is often fraught with bumps, tos and fros, forward and backward.  “We are still fully committed to achieving the outcome that we have laid out – the fully verified denuclearization of North Korea – and to do so through the use of diplomacy.”Pompeo was attending an Asian security conference, the annual Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) forum that has served in the past as a venue for talks between Washington and Pyongyang. He’d said he hoped Pyongyang would send its foreign minister this year, but it didn’t happen.