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(2nd LD) N. Korea fires multiple unidentified projectiles off east coast: JCS

North Korea 08:37 July 31, 2019

(ATTN: UPDATES with details, State Department response in paras 1, 3-5)

SEOUL/WASHINGTON, July 31 (Yonhap) -- North Korea on Wednesday fired multiple unidentified projectiles off its east coast, the Joint Chiefs of Staff said, the second such launch in less than a week.

The projectiles were launched from the Hodo peninsula in South Hamgyong Province on the country's east coast, the JCS said, adding that it is monitoring the situation in case of additional launches and maintaining a readiness posture.

South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo said the projectiles were launched twice, and they were detected both times.

The United States responded cautiously.

"We are aware of reports of a missile launch from North Korea, and we will continue to monitor the situation," a State Department spokesperson told Yonhap News Agency on condition of anonymity.

The launches come six days after North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles from the same area into the East Sea in its first provocation since May, raising questions about the prospects for denuclearization talks between the U.S. and North Korea.

South Korea said both flew some 600 kilometers and described them as "a new kind of short-range ballistic missile."

Last week's missiles are thought to have been the North's version of Russia's Iskander, a short-range, ground-to-ground ballistic missile known as KN-23, which it test-fired in May.

It was not immediately known whether Wednesday's launches involved the same type.

The series of launches comes as Washington has sought to restart working-level talks on dismantling the North's nuclear and ballistic missile programs, in line with an agreement reached between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un last month.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday he hoped the discussions will resume "very soon."

Washington has remained upbeat about the prospects for talks, with Trump dismissing last week's missiles as "smaller ones" that many countries test.

Pompeo described the launches as a negotiating tactic that allowed the talks to move forward. While noting the U.S. commitment to diplomacy, the State Department urged North Korea to refrain from further "provocations."

U.N. Security Council resolutions ban North Korea from launching ballistic missiles. On Monday, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned a Vietnam-based North Korean individual for his alleged involvement in the weapons program.

Trump insisted earlier Tuesday that he has a good relationship with Kim.

"My relationship with Kim Jong-un is a very good one, as I'm sure you've seen," he told reporters at the White House. "We'll see what happens. I can't tell you what's going to happen."

This footage, aired by the (North) Korean Central Television on July 26, 2019, shows a short-range missile being fired from a transporter erector launcher on the Hodo Peninsula near the eastern coastal town of Wonsan the previous day. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)


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