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(LEAD) N. Korea fires unidentified projectiles into East Sea: JCS

All Headlines 08:39 August 24, 2019

(ATTN: ADDS more details throughout, photo)
By Oh Seok-min

SEOUL, Aug. 24 (Yonhap) -- North Korea twice fired unidentified projectiles into the East Sea on Saturday, South Korea's military said, ratcheting up tensions ahead of a possible resumption of nuclear talks with the United States.

The projectiles were launched from the eastern town of Sondok in South Hamgyong Province earlier in the day, according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS).

No other details were immediately known, including their type, flight range and maximum altitude.

"Our military is monitoring the situation in case of additional launches and maintaining a readiness posture," the JCS said in a release.

National security adviser Chung Eui-yong presided over a National Security Council meeting to discuss the launches.

Japan's Kyodo News agency reported that the North appears to have fired ballistic missiles.

This photo, carried by the North's Korean Central News Agency on Aug. 17, 2019, shows the test of a "new weapon" a day earlier. The projectile is believed to be the North Korean version of the U.S.' Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS). (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

Saturday's launch took place in about a week after North Korea fired two projectiles believed to be short-range ballistic missiles into the East Sea on Aug. 16. It was the seventh such launch since July 25 when the North restarted its major weapons test after a 17-month hiatus.

North Korea is believed to use these launches to test new types of short-range missiles, including its version of the Iskander and the U.S.' Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS).

Saturday's launches came as North Korea has launched verbal attacks on the U.S. ahead of the possible resumption of the stalled talks on its nuclear weapons program.

On Friday, the North's Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho lashed out at U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for stating that the "toughest" sanctions will remain until North Korea denuclearizes, threatening that Pyongyang will try to remain "America's biggest threat" if the U.S. continues to confront the North with sanctions, and it is ready for both dialogue and a standoff.

There have been signs of the resumption of dialogue, after South Korea and the U.S. wrapped up their combined military exercise this week.

U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun visited Seoul this week for talks with senior Seoul officials over joint efforts to resume working-level nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang.

Earlier this month, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un expressed his willingness to resume talks with the U.S. "as soon as" the exercise is over, according to U.S. President Donald Trump.

The negotiations on the North's nuclear weapons program have been stalled since the no-deal Hanoi summit in February. During their surprise meeting in the inter-Korean border village of Panmunjom at the end of June, Trump and Kim agreed to resume nuclear talks, and the U.S. has suggested working-level dialogue.

graceoh@yna.co.kr
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