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North Korea fires several short-range missiles into sea

  • 4 May 2019

Pyongyang fires "several projectiles" from its east coast, South Korea's military says, as the country appears to step up pressure against US after February's failed nuclear summit in Hanoi.

People watch a TV showing a file footage of North Korea's missile launch during a news program at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Saturday, May 4, 2019. ( AP )

North Korea on Saturday fired several unidentified short-range projectiles into the sea off its eastern coast, the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said, a likely sign of Pyongyang's growing frustration at stalled diplomatic talks with Washington meant to provide coveted sanctions relief in return for nuclear disarmament.

South Korea's military has bolstered its surveillance in case there are additional weapons launches, and South Korean and US authorities are analysing the details. 

If it's confirmed that the North fired banned ballistic missiles, it would be the first such launch since the North's November 2017 test of an intercontinental ballistic missile. 

That year saw a string of increasingly powerful weapons tests from the North and a belligerent response from President Donald Trump that had many in the region fearing war.

The South initially reported that a single missile was fired, but later issued a statement that said "several projectiles" had been launched and that they flew up to 200 kilometres before splashing into the sea toward the northeast. 

TRT World's Joseph Kim has more from Seoul, South Korea.

Diplomatic breakdown

Experts say the North may increase these sorts of low-level provocations to apply pressure on the United States to agree to reduce crushing international sanctions.

The launch comes amid a diplomatic breakdown that has followed the failed summit earlier this year between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un over the North's pursuit of nuclear bombs that can accurately target the US mainland. 

The North probably has viable shorter range nuclear armed missiles but still needs more tests to perfect its longer-range weapons, according to outside analysts.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement that the United States was aware of North Korea's actions and would continue to monitor the situation.

North Korea wants widespread sanctions relief in return for disarmament moves that the United States has rejected as insufficient. 

In a sign of Pyongyang's growing frustration, it has recently demanded that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo be removed from nuclear negotiations and criticised national security adviser John Bolton. 

Kim's displeasure with Washington

North Korea said last month that it had tested a new type of unspecified "tactical guided weapon."

During the diplomacy that followed the North's weapons tests of 2017, Kim said that the North would not test nuclear devices or ICBMs. 

These short-range projectiles don't appear to violate that self-imposed moratorium, and may instead be a way to register Kim's displeasure with Washington without having the diplomacy collapse.

The South's presidential Blue House had no immediate comment on the launches. 

The country's liberal president, Moon Jae-in, has doggedly pursued engagement with the North and is seen as a driving force behind the two summits between Trump and Kim.

Japan's Defence Ministry said the projectiles weren't a security threat and didn't reach anywhere near the country's coast. 

Japan will likely avoid any harsh response as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seeks to secure his own summit with Kim.

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