The South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff [JCS] said the North conducted the launch early on Friday from a site near the city of Tongchon. It has conducted six rounds of weapons launches since 25 July, apparently in retaliation for military drills involving South Korean and US forces.
Before the launch, North Korea’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country called South Korean president Moon Jae-in an “impudent guy” who is “overcome with fright” and rejected his earlier talk of unifying the Korean Peninsula.
“We have nothing more to talk about with the South Korean authorities and we have no desire to sit down with them again,” it said in a statement run by the KCNA state news agency.
Pyongyang routinely denounces the annual exercises as a rehearsal for an invasion. Washington and Seoul insisted that drills, the latest of which began on Monday, were purely defensive in nature.
In his liberation day address on Thursday, Moon said he envisioned a future of close economic cooperation, denuclearisation and the unification of the two Koreas by 2045 – a century after the peninsula was liberated from Japanese colonial rule.
However, the North’s reunification committee said South Korea’s participation in war games with the US, along with its new five-year defence plan were designed to destroy the regime
Moon claimed credit for opening up a dialogue with the North after years of tension under his conservative predecessors. “In spite of a series of worrying actions taken by North Korea recently, the momentum for dialogue remains unshaken,” he said.
Some analysts believe North Korea’s latest provocation is intended to pressure Seoul into pushing cross-border economic ties and persuading Washington to make concessions in any future talks over Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons programme.
“They are basically asking for pretext for the North to come out and have inter-Korean talks and save its face,” Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies, told South Korea’s Yonhap news agency. “It also seems like an indirect message seeking more efforts to change Washington’s stance, such as easing sanctions on the North.”
Denuclearisation talks have been stalled, despite a commitment to revive them made at a June 30 meeting along the heavily fortified border separating the two Koreas between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump.
On Saturday, Trump said Kim had apologised to him for the flurry of recent short-range missile tests that has rattled US allies in the region and said they would stop when joint US-South Korea military exercises ended.
The same day, the regime fired what appeared to be two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea