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North Korea fires 2 ballistic missiles off east coast, South Korean officials say

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – North Korea fired two ballistic missiles off its east coast on Wednesday, the South Korean military said, two days after North Korea claimed to have tested a new missile during his first weapons test in six months.

The two ballistic missiles launched from a site in central North Korea headed for waters off the east coast of the Korean Peninsula on Wednesday afternoon, the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement. .

The statement said South Korean and US intelligence authorities are analyzing more details of the North Korean launches. He said South Korea had strengthened its anti-North Korea watchdog position.

The Japanese Coast Guard confirmed that the missiles both landed outside the Japanese Exclusive Economic Zone in waters between Japan and the Korean Peninsula. No ships or planes reported damage, the Coast Guard said.

North Korea said Monday it tested a newly developed cruise missile twice over the weekend. North Korean state media described the missile as a “strategic weapon of great importance”, implying that they were developed with the intention of arming them with nuclear warheads. According to North Korean accounts, the missile traveled about 1,500 kilometers (930 miles), a distance capable of reaching all Japanese and US military installations there.

Many experts say the North Korean test suggests that North Korea is pushing to bolster its arsenal of weapons amid a stalemate in nuclear diplomacy between Pyongyang and Washington.

The latest launch came as Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was in Seoul for meetings with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and other senior officials to discuss the nuclear diplomacy standoff with the North.

Talks between the United States and North Korea have stalled since 2019, when the Americans rejected the North’s demand for major sanctions relief in exchange for dismantling an aging nuclear facility. Kim’s government has so far threatened to manufacture high-tech weapons targeting the United States and has rejected the Biden administration’s overtures for dialogue, demanding that Washington first abandon its “hostile” policies.

The North’s resumption of testing activity is likely an attempt to pressure the Biden administration over the diplomatic freeze after Kim failed to leverage his arsenal for economic gain during Donald Trump’s presidency .

North Korea ended a year-long hiatus in ballistic testing in March by firing two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea, continuing the tradition of testing new U.S. administrations with weapons demonstrations aimed at measuring Washington’s response and wresting concessions.

North Korea still maintains a self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile testing, a sign that it may not want to completely scuttle nuclear negotiations with the United States.

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