North Korea has fired a barrage of short-range missiles towards the Sea of Japan, in first such action in over a year amid deadlocked nuclear talks with the United States.
The North “fired multiple rounds of unidentified missiles from its east coast town of Wonsan in the northeastern direction between 9:06 a.m. and 9:27 a.m. today,” South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency quoted the country’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) as saying in a Saturday statement.
The projectiles flew about 70-100 kilometers over the East Sea, also known as Sea of Japan, before landing in the sea, the brief statement said, adding that South Korean and US authorities “are analyzing details of the missiles.”
No further details regarding the projectiles were immediately available. Pyongyang has also not commented on the missile launches.
North Korea has for years been under an array of harsh sanctions imposed by the US and the United Nations for its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
Last month, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un told Russian President Vladimir Putin during their first-ever meeting in Russia that the situation on the Korean Peninsula had reached a “critical point”, warning that peace and security on the peninsula would entirely depend on the future Washington attitude.
Back in February, US President Donald Trump and Kim reached an impasse at their face-to-face denuclearization talks in the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi.
Washington demanded full disarmament and Pyongyang asked for economic incentives through partial lifting of harsh sanctions.
The second summit in fact did collapse when the American president abruptly walked away from the talks without reaching a deal or even issuing a final statement.
Trump claimed at the time that he quit the talks because Kim demanded that all economic sanctions be lifted as a prerequisite to denuclearization. Pyongyang, however, quickly responded that it had never asked for the removal of all sanctions, but only their partial removal.
The two sides have been at loggerheads since the collapse of the Hanoi summit.
Trump and Kim met at a historic summit for the first time in June last year in Singapore, where they agreed to work toward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Subsequent diplomacy between the two sides, however, made little progress, mainly because Washington refused to lift its crippling sanctions.
Washington has refused to offer any sanctions relief in return for several unilateral steps already taken by North Korea. Pyongyang, on the other hand, has suspended its missile and nuclear testing, demolished at least one nuclear test site, and agreed to allow international inspectors into a missile engine test facility.