North Korea launches another missile as President Trump promises more talks
By Kim Gamel
Stars and Stripes
North Korea showed off another missile on Sunday, hours after President Donald Trump said he’s not worried about the recent spate of launches and raised hope for new nuclear talks with the communist state.
The North’s state-run news agency reported that leader Kim Jong Un supervised the missile launches on Saturday, the country’s fifth weapons test in less than three weeks.
“The Supreme Leader expressed great satisfaction, being very pleased that another new weapon intended by the Party came into being,” KCNA reported.
It also published photos showing a missile and Kim watching as a ball of fire rises in the sky.
South Korea’s military said it appeared that two short-range ballistic missiles fired by the North flew nearly 250 miles and reached an altitude of nearly 30 miles before splashing into the sea off the eastern coast.
The North has said other recent aunches were to protest U.S.-South Korean military exercises that began last week, but experts say it also is likely trying to boost its leverage as Washington tries to restart talks aimed at persuading it to abandon its nuclear weapons.
Trump said Saturday that Kim wrote in a “very beautiful letter” that he wants “to meet and start negotiations as soon as” Seoul and Washington conclude the joint drill this month.
“It was a long letter, much of it complaining about the ridiculous and expensive exercises,” the president wrote in a series of tweets. “It was also a small apology for testing the short range missiles.”
Trump said Kim promised the testing would stop when the exercises end. “I look forward to seeing Kim Jong Un in the not too distant future!” he added.
North Korea has long denounced the annual exercises, which it considers rehearsals for an invasion despite allied assurances that the drills are defensive in nature.
Trump has changed the debate by adding his own criticism of what he has called “war games” as part of his demands that South Korea pay more for maintaining some 28,500 U.S. troops on the peninsula.
The United States has sharply scaled back the size and scope of the drills since Trump announced he was “stopping the war games” after his first summit with Kim last year.
The current command post exercise is aimed at testing the South’s capabilities as it hopes to assume operational control of the military from the U.S. should war break out.
North Korea’s recent spate of tests began on July 25, when it launched two missiles that officials believe are modeled after Russia’s Iskander and appear to be designed to avoid U.S. and South Korean defenses.
While the North has been careful to avoid criticism of Trump, it stepped up its criticism of the South over the exercises in a separate report on Sunday. KCNA quoted a senior foreign ministry official as warning the drills were jeopardizing inter-Korean relations.
“Given that the military exercise clearly puts us as an enemy in its concept … an inter-Korean contact itself will be difficult to be made unless they put an end to such a military exercise or before they make a plausible excuse” for the drills, Kwon Jong-gun, the ministry’s director-general of the department of American affairs, was quoted as saying.
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