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(4th LD) Seoul expresses 'strong concerns' over N. Korea's ballistic missile launches

All Headlines 22:58 July 25, 2019

(ATTN: ADDS more info in paras 6, 10)

SEOUL, July 25 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's top security officials expressed "strong concerns" Thursday over North Korea's firing of two projectiles that they believed to be a new type of short-range ballistic missile.

The North launched the missiles from its east coast in the morning in an apparent show of displeasure over the planned South Korea-U.S. military exercise, which it warned would affect the resumption of its working-level nuclear talks with the United States.

The presidential National Security Council (NSC) tentatively concluded that the missiles were "a new kind of short-range ballistic missile," Cheong Wa Dae said in a press release.

They plan to make a final assessment later on the basis of a joint examination with the United States, it added.

The NSC standing members expressed "strong concerns" over Pyongyang's provocation, saying it does not help efforts to ease military tensions on the peninsula.

Such a relatively rapid response to the North's saber-rattling marked a subtle shift from Cheong Wa Dae's previous position of caution, but observers said Seoul appears to be putting pressure on Pyongyang to return to dialogue.

Since a Korea peace process went into high gear last year, Cheong Wa Dae had refrained from directly describing the North's projectile launches as ballistic missile tests banned under U.N. sanctions.

Earlier in the day, Seoul's Joint Chiefs of Staff said that Pyongyang fired one missile at around 5:34 a.m. and the other at 5:57 a.m. from Hodo Peninsula near its eastern coastal town of Wonsan into the East Sea. They flew around 430 kilometers and 690 km, respectively, both at an altitude of around 50 km.

The North has recently been gradually raising tensions as the South and the U.S. are preparing for their joint command post exercise slated for next month, with Washington pushing to re-launch nuclear talks with Pyongyang.

Denouncing the exercise as a hostile move against it, Pyongyang has hinted that it could boycott the working-level nuclear talks that U.S. President Donald Trump and its leader Kim Jong-un agreed to resume during their impromptu meeting at the Demilitarized Zone on June 30.

Thursday's missile launches came days after Pyongyang showed off a new submarine capable of carrying submarine-launched ballistic missiles. It has also rejected Seoul's offer of food aid.

Chung Eui-yong, the national security adviser, presided over Thursday's NSC standing committee session. The other members of the NSC panel, who hold a weekly meeting, include the foreign, defense and unification ministers, as well as the director of the National Intelligence Service.

This photo, taken on May 17, 2019, shows National Security Advisor Chung Eui-yong speaking during a press briefing at the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul. (Yonhap)

They also discussed the recent Middle East security conditions and reviewed ways to secure the free navigation of South Korea's civilian ships through the Strait of Hormuz.

The U.S. reportedly wants South Korea and some other nations to dispatch troops and naval ships to the waters near Iran.

With regard to a Russian military plane's intrusion into South Korea's aerospace earlier this week, they reaffirmed the government's "stern position," Cheong Wa Dae added.

lcd@yna.co.kr
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