North Korea fired 2 ballistic missiles, US and Japan say

President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader, prepare to cross from the North Korean side of the Demilitarized Zone into South Korea at Panmunjom on June 30, 2019. (Photo: NYTimes)
SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea launched two short-range ballistic missiles off its east coast Thursday, in its first significant provocation against the United States under President Joe Biden, US and Japanese officials said.اضافة اعلان

South Korea confirmed North Korea had launched two unidentified projectiles, but Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga of Japan was the first regional leader to identify them as “ballistic missiles.” A senior US official also confirmed that the projectiles were ballistic missiles.

“It threatens the peace and security of Japan and the region, and is a violation of United Nations resolutions,” the Japanese leader said on Twitter, referring to the United Nations Security Council’s ban on the North’s developing and testing ballistic missile technologies. “I strongly protest and strongly condemn it.”

The missiles dropped into waters between North Korea and Japan and outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone, Suga said. The Japanese military said that the missiles flew 450km, reaching a height of 99km. The missiles dropped into waters between North Korea and Japan and outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone, Suga said. The Japanese military said that the missiles flew 450km, reaching a height of 99km.

In Tokyo and Seoul, the governments convened their national security councils to discuss North Korea’s latest weapons test.

South Korean authorities were analyzing the data collected from the launch to determine the type of projectile, the country’s military said in a brief statement. The South Korean military uses the term “unidentified projectile” when it cannot immediately determine if the object was a ballistic missile.

Over the weekend, North Korea also test-fired two short-range cruise missiles, South Korean defense officials confirmed Wednesday. But that test did not violate UN resolutions, which ban North Korea from developing or testing ballistic missile technologies.

The earlier test took place off the west coast of North Korea on Sunday, just days after the country had accused the United States and South Korea of raising “a stink” on the Korean Peninsula with their annual military drills.

North Korea’s weapons program has been a thorny problem for the past four US presidents. Each approached the country with different incentives and sanctions, but all failed to persuade it to stop building nuclear warheads and the missiles to deliver them.

North Korea’s weapons program has advanced quickly. In 2017, the North fired missiles over Japan and threatened to launch an “enveloping” strike near the US territory of Guam.

After the country launched its first intercontinental ballistic missiles later that year, former President Donald Trump hoped direct talks with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, would persuade the impoverished and isolated country to end its program.

Despite three face-to-face meetings, the leaders were unable to reach an agreement, depriving Trump of what he had hoped would be a crowning foreign policy achievement. Instead, the failed summits gave Kim more time to further develop his weapons, experts say.

Analysts are closely watching Washington to see if Biden’s approach to North Korea will follow that of former President Barack Obama, rather than the more direct engagement of Trump.

The Biden administration has been studying how to deal with North Korea, which Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken has called “a hard problem.” When Blinken was in Seoul last week, he said the Biden administration planned to complete a North Korea policy review in the coming weeks in close coordination with South Korea and Japan. He said the review included both “pressure options and potential for future diplomacy.”

During the first months of his presidency, Obama was also greeted by a North Korean provocation when the country detonated a nuclear bomb. He opted for a policy of “strategic patience,” which meant gradually escalating sanctions.

In the weekend test, missiles were launched from a site near Nampo, a port southwest of Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, said Ha Tae-keung, a South Korean lawmaker who was briefed by intelligence officials Wednesday.

When North Korea launches missile tests, they are usually celebrated through the state news media and quickly confirmed by the South Korean military. But the North Korean news media did not report on Sunday’s test and has yet to report on Thursday’s launch. South Korean officials said Wednesday that they had detected the test when it occurred, but decided not to immediately report on it.