North Korea has test-fired what South Korean officials are describing as short-range projectiles into the sea off the North’s eastern coast. The term projectiles is being used while officials obtain more details about the launches.
The tests occurred Saturday morning, with the projectiles traveling between 43 and 125 miles, CNN reported. Japanese officials said they did not land in Japan’s territorial waters.
Initially, it does not appear that the test firing, which could entail ballistic missiles, rockets, or a multi-rocket launcher, according to CNN, violates a moratorium on nuclear weapons or intercontinental ballistic missile testing following diplomatic negotiations between the Trump administration and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. However, it is seen as an escalation by Kim after a failed second summit between Kim and Trump in Vietnam last February.
But South Korea said the action does violate agreements between the North and the South to ease military tensions between the two nations and pursue nuclear diplomacy, according to the Associated Press.
“Clearly, Pyongyang is frustrated with the conclusion of the recent summit with Washington in Vietnam that did not produce any breakthrough,” Harry J. Kazianis, director of the Center for the National Interest, told The New York Times.
The Trump administration, led by National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, is at a standoff with Kim on negotiations over the North’s nuclear weapons program. The Trump administration is demanding that Kim give up his entire nuclear weapons program before economic sanctions by the U.S. are lifted, while Kim is calling for a gradual scale-down, according to the Times.
In response to Saturday’s test firing, Pompeo spoke by telephone with South Korean and Japanese foreign ministers. The leaders agreed to respond “with caution,” according to the South Korean Foreign Ministry.
Hours later, Trump tweeted about the incident, saying, “I am with him,” referring to Kim. “Deal will happen!” he added.
Trump administration officials hadn’t ruled out attempting a third summit with Kim, although North Korean officials have said they don’t want Bolton or Pompeo involved in future talks.
If confirmed, Saturday’s test-firing would be the first missile launch by North Korea since late 2017, CNN reported.
On Friday, the United Nations said North Korea had suffered its worst harvest in a decade, putting about 40% of the country’s population in urgent need for food aid, the Times reported.