Seoul: North Ko­rea fired two pro­jec­tiles

Times-Herald (Vallejo) - - FRONT PAGE - By Hyung-Jin Kim

North Ko­rea on Thurs­day fired two short-range pro­jec­tiles, likely from a mul­ti­ple rocket launcher.

SEOUL, SOUTH KO­REA >> North Ko­rea on Thurs­day fired two short-range pro­jec­tiles, likely from a “su­per-large” mul­ti­ple rocket launcher, South Ko­rea’s mil­i­tary said, adding to ten­sions three days af­ter the North said its troops con­ducted ar­tillery drills near its dis­puted sea bound­ary with South Ko­rea.

The re­cent North Ko­rea ac­tiv­i­ties could in­di­cate it wants to show what would hap­pen if Wash­ing­ton fails to meet a year-end dead­line set by its leader, Kim Jong Un, for the U.S. to of­fer a new pro­posal in their stale­mated nu­clear talks.

Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a state­ment that the pro­jec­tiles were launched to­ward the North’s eastern wa­ters from north­east­ern South Ham­gy­ong prov­ince.

Maj. Gen. Jeon Dong Jin, a se­nior op­er­a­tions of­fi­cer at the JCS, said the pro­jec­tiles flew about 380 kilo­me­ters (235 miles) at a max­i­mum al­ti­tude of 97 kilo­me­ters (60 miles). He said South Korean and U.S. in­tel­li­gence au­thor­i­ties were con­tin­u­ing to an­a­lyze the de­tails.

“Our mil­i­tary ex­presses its strong re­gret over (the launches) and urges (North Ko­rea) to im­me­di­ately stop acts that es­ca­late mil­i­tary ten­sions,” Jeon said in a tele­vised brief­ing. He said the mil­i­tary is mon­i­tor­ing pos­si­ble ad­di­tional launches by North Ko­rea.

Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe con­demned the launches as a “se­ri­ous chal­lenge” to both Ja­pan and the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity, even though the pro­jec­tiles did not land in­side Ja­panese ter­ri­to­rial wa­ters.

He said his govern­ment will “do its ut­most” to pro­tect the lives and as­sets of Ja­panese peo­ple.

The re­ported launches were the 13th ma­jor pub­lic weapons test by North Ko­rea this year and the first since it con­ducted what it called a test-fir­ing of a new “su­per-large” mul­ti­ple rocket launcher late last month. That launcher is ap­par­ently the same sys­tem that South Ko­rea’s mil­i­tary said was likely used in Thurs­day’s launches.

Abe called the pro­jec­tiles “bal­lis­tic mis­siles.” Some ex­perts have said that pro­jec­tiles fired from the “su­per-large” mul­ti­ple rocket launcher are vir­tu­ally mis­siles or mis­sile-class weapons.

On Mon­day, North Ko­rea said leader Kim vis­ited a front-line islet and or­dered ar­tillery troops there to prac­tice fir­ing near the sea bound­ary, the scene of sev­eral bloody naval clashes be­tween the Koreas in past years. South Ko­rea protested the drills, say­ing they vi­o­lated an agree­ment last year aimed at low­er­ing mil­i­tary an­i­mos­ity.

Seoul’s De­fense Min­istry said the ar­tillery fir­ing oc­curred on Nov. 23, the 9th an­niver­sary of the North

Korean shelling of a South Korean bor­der is­land that killed four South Kore­ans in 2010.

With nu­clear di­plo­macy with the United States largely dead­locked, North Ko­rea has test-fired a se­ries of newly de­vel­oped weapons to pres­sure the U.S. while us­ing the stand­still in ne­go­ti­a­tions to up­grade its mil­i­tary ca­pa­bil­i­ties. In early Oc­to­ber, it con­ducted its first un­der­wa­ter launch of a bal­lis­tic mis­sile in three years.

At­ten­tion is now fo­cused on whether North Ko­rea will re­sume long-range mis­sile and nu­clear tests which have been sus­pended since it con­ducted the third of three in­tercon­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile tests in Novem­ber 2017. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has called the sus­pen­sion of those tests a ma­jor achieve­ment of his North Ko­rea pol­icy.

Some ex­perts say North Ko­rea may restart those ma­jor weapons tests if the United States fails to meet the dead­line. But oth­ers say North Ko­rea is likely to be­gin with less se­ri­ous provo­ca­tions while at­tempt­ing to im­prove co­op­er­a­tion with China and Rus­sia, be­cause ICBM and nu­clear tests would com­pletely de­rail di­plo­macy with the United States.

In re­cent weeks, high­level North Korean of­fi­cials have is­sued state­ments via state me­dia say­ing their coun­try is not in­ter­ested in di­plo­macy with the U.S. un­less Wash­ing­ton aban­dons hos­tile poli­cies to­ward the North.

North Ko­rea says it wants the U.S. to lift in­ter­na­tional sanc­tions im­posed on it and pro­vide se­cu­rity guar­an­tees be­fore aban­don­ing its ad­vanc­ing nu­clear arse­nal. But U.S. of­fi­cials have said the sanc­tions on the North will re­main in place un­til North Ko­rea takes sub­stan­tial steps to­ward de­nu­cle­ariza­tion.

The nu­clear ne­go­ti­a­tions broke down in Fe­bru­ary when Trump re­jected Kim’s de­mands for ma­jor sanc­tions re­lief in re­turn for par­tial dis­ar­ma­ment steps dur­ing their sec­ond sum­mit in Viet­nam. They held a third, im­promptu meet­ing in late June at the Korean bor­der vil­lage of Pan­munjom.


In this un­dated photo pro­vided on Mon­day by the North Korean govern­ment, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, cen­ter, in­spects a mil­i­tary unit on Changrin Islet in North Ko­rea.

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