SEOUL, Aug 10 — Donald Trump said on Saturday that his North Korean counterpart Kim Jong Un had offered to resume talks on his country’s nuclear and missile programme as soon as US-South Korea military exercises had ended.
North Korea fired what appeared to be two short-range missiles on Saturday, South Korea said, in a show of force against the military exercises. More missile launches are highly probable, as the North Korean military is conducting its own summer drills, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.
The missile launch came a few hours after the US president said he had received a “very beautiful letter” from Mr Kim. Mr Trump tweeted on Saturday that Mr Kim had complained about the “ridiculous and expensive” exercises and said he would like to meet and start negotiations as soon as the joint drills were over.
North Korea has fired a series of missiles and rockets since agreeing at a June 30 meeting with Mr Trump to revive the denuclearisation talks.
A US official said that at least one projectile was launched and that it appeared to be similar to previous short-range missiles fired by Pyongyang. The South Korean military said two missiles flew about 400km at a height of around 48km.
However, Mr Trump played down the recent missile launches when he spoke to reporters on Friday, saying: “I say it again: There have been no nuclear tests. The missile tests have all been short-range. No ballistic missile tests. No long-range missiles.”
North Korea’s state media has yet to confirm the launch, but in a commentary on Saturday the state-run KCNA news agency blamed the South Korean authorities for being “hell-bent on arms build-up against their dialogue partner”.
Seoul urged Pyongyang to stop the launches, which South Korea’s presidential office said were apparently testing the capabilities of a new short-range missile.
Mr Kim says the missile tests are in response to the US-South Korean drills being held this month. These are largely computer-simulated exercises, in contrast to previous large-scale annual drills that were halted to expedite the denuclearisation talks.
North Korea sees such exercises as a rehearsal for war aimed at toppling its leadership.
The projectiles were fired at dawn on Saturday from an area around the northeastern city of Hamhung, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said. Large solid-fuel rocket engines for North Korea’s ballistic missile programme are most likely being produced at a factory complex in Hamhung, monitoring group 38 North said last year. Hamhung also has a testing site for those engines.
Kim Dong-yup, a former naval officer who teaches at Seoul’s Kyungnam University, said the weapons tested on Saturday could be related to the completion of North Korea’s new rocket artillery system that required multiple launches of the same kind.
Japan’s ministry of defence said the projectiles did not pose an immediate security threat.