North Korea fired off two “unidentified projectiles” from the country’s west, toward the Sea of Japan on Tuesday, the South Korean military said, just hours after the nation offered to resume nuclear talks with the United States and a day ahead of a key Cabinet reshuffle in Japan, Defence.az reports citing Japan Times.
The projectiles were launched in an easterly direction from an inland area of South Pyongan province, the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.
It said the two “short-range” projectiles that flew about 330 kilometers were launched at 6:53 a.m. and 7:12 a.m. from near Gaechon, South Pyongan province.
“Our military is monitoring the situation in case of additional launches and maintaining a readiness posture,” the JCS said earlier.
Japan’s Defense Ministry said the launches posed no immediate threat to the country’s security and did not land in Japanese territory or its exclusive economic zone.
The launches, the North’s eighth volley of tests since late July and its 18th and 19th weapons tests this year, come amid growing concerns in Tokyo that the North has been working hard to develop powerful new weapons systems, including short-range ballistic missiles capable of striking as far as even Japan.
Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya said in Tokyo that North Korea, through its repeated launches, has been working strenuously to bolster its weapons and ballistic missile technology.
Pyongyang is banned from the use of all ballistic missile technology under United Nations sanctions resolutions.
“We view this as a very serious issue, and we want to keep close tabs on the situation while making every effort to stay vigilant” of the North Korean nuclear threat, Iwaya said at a televised news briefing.
The North’s saber-rattling comes a day before Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is due to reshuffle his Cabinet, a move that could see him change up key posts, including the defense and foreign ministerial portfolios. Both posts have had significant dealings with the North’s nuclear weapons program.
Pyongyang had said earlier Tuesday that it was willing to restart nuclear talks with the U.S. later this month, but warned that chances of a deal could end unless Washington takes a fresh approach.
In a statement carried by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency, Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui said Pyongyang was willing to have “comprehensive discussions” with the United States in late September at a time and place to be agreed to between both sides.
Her offer comes after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un agreed in a June 30 meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump to reopen working-level talks stalled since their failed February summit in Hanoi.
Trump, asked about the offer at the White House, repeated that he maintains a “good relationship” with Kim.
“I just saw it as I’m coming out here, that they would like to meet. We’ll see what happens,” Trump said. “I always say having meetings is a good thing, not a bad thing.”
A senior Trump administration official told The Japan Times that it was “aware of the reports of projectiles launched from North Korea.”
“We are continuing to monitor the situation and consulting closely with our allies in the region,” the official said.
On Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he hoped for a return to denuclearization talks in the coming days or weeks, while reiterating the U.S. objective of North Korea’s complete denuclearization and adding that Washington was disappointed by North Korea’s recent volley of short-range missile tests.
In her statement, Choe stressed that Washington needed to present a new approach — or the talks could again fall apart.
“I believe that the U.S. side will come out with a proposal geared to the interests of the DPRK and the U.S. and based on the calculation method acceptable to us,” Choe said.
“If the U.S. side fingers again the worn-out scenario which has nothing to do with the new calculation method at the DPRK-U.S. working negotiation to be held with so much effort, the DPRK-U.S. dealings may come to an end,” she said, using the acronym for the North’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
In April, Kim set a year-end deadline for the United States to show more flexibility in talks, which broke down in Hanoi in February over U.S. demands for North Korea to relinquish its nuclear arsenal and Pyongyang’s demands for relief from crushing U.N. sanctions.