“(The North) fired one short-range missile at around 5:34 a.m. and the other at 5:57 a.m. [on Thursday], from Hodo Peninsula near its eastern coastal town of Wonsan into the East Sea,” said South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) in a statement.
It added that the missiles flew around 430 kilometers and reached an altitude of 50 kilometers before splashing down into the sea.
“Our military, in preparation for additional launches, is maintaining (its) readiness posture by monitoring related movements,” the JCS further said. “The US and South Korea are in the process of analyzing the details in relation to the launches.”
Neither Washington nor Pyongyang has yet commented on the purported launches.
The development comes just a few days after the North strongly denounced joint military exercises between South Korea and the US, saying the drills posed an “all-out challenge” to efforts toward peace on the Korean Peninsula.
North Korea, currently under multiple rounds of harsh sanctions by the United Nations (UN) and the US over its nuclear and missile programs, put a unilateral halt to its missile and nuclear tests shortly before a diplomatic thaw began between Pyongyang and Seoul in early 2018.
That thaw later led to summits between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to discuss the demilitarization of the Korean Peninsula, the first of which was held in Singapore in June last year and the second in Vietnam in February.
The Singapore summit made little progress, mainly because Washington refuses to lift its harsh sanctions on North Korea.
The Vietnam summit also broke up without an agreement or even a joint statement as the two sides failed to reach a consensus. Trump walked away from the summit, claiming that Kim had insisted on the removal of all sanctions on North Korea. Pyongyang, however, rejected that account, stressing that it had only asked for a partial lifting of the bans.
Following the failure of the summit, the North repeatedly warned that it was considering ending talks on denuclearization and resuming its nuclear and missile tests over what it described as “the gangster-like stand” of the US.
In their third, brief meeting at the Korean border at the end of June, Kim and Trump agreed to kick-start working-level talks.
North Korea says US ‘hell-bent on hostility’North Korea says Washington’s hostilities continue even as US President Donald Trump seems to warm up to North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un.
Washington has so far refused to offer any sanctions relief in return for several unilateral steps already taken by North Korea. Pyongyang has also demolished at least one nuclear test site and agreed to allow international inspectors into a missile engine test facility.
The US now demands that North Korea abandon its nuclear weapons entirely before the sanctions are lifted; Pyongyang insists on a step-by-step approach that would include verifiable American commitment to end its massive military presence near its territorial waters.