North Korea fires short-range projectiles, South Korea says

North Korea fired short-range projectiles off its eastern coast Saturday. The firings are North Korean leader Kim Jong Un latest signal of frustration with stalled nuclear talks with the United States. He is pictured after last month's summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin about regional stability. File Photo by KCNA

May 4 (UPI) — North Korea fired numerous short-range projectiles into the East Sea on Saturday, South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff said, amid stalled U.S. nuclear talks.

North Korea apparently fired the projectiles from its nearly 12-inch multiple launch rocket system as part of an artillery units drills or test for improvement, analysts told Yonhap News Agency.

South Korea’s JCS had said earlier that North Korea fired short-range “missiles,” but later revised the announcements to say that they were only fired as “projectiles.”

The revision suggests that the firings involved multiple rocket launchers instead of missiles. The projectiles were fired between 9:06 a.m. and 9:27 a.m. local time near the east coast town of Wonsan, the JCS said.

They flew about 45 to 125 miles, the JCS said, adding that South Korea and U.S. authorities are analyzing the intention behind the firings.

President Donald Trump reacted to the projectile launches Saturday morning, posting on Twitter: “Anything in this very interesting world is possible, but I believe that Kim Jong Un fully realizes the great economic potential of North Korea, & will do nothing to interfere or end it. He also knows that I am with him & does not want to break his promise to me. Deal will happen!”

Trump walked away from a summit on nuclear dismantlement in February with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un without reaching a deal.

North Korea wanted sanctions relief for partial denuclearization, but the United States refused to relax sanctions without complete denuclearization. Kim said last month that he would be willing to hold another summit with Trump if the United States changes its hard-line stance on sanctions relief.

The firings are Kim’s latest signal of frustration with stalled nuclear talks with the United States.

North Korea had last test-fired the Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile in late November 2017. Kim then declared his nuclear weapons program “complete” and opened talks.

The distinction between “projectiles” and “missiles” is key since Trump has cited Kim’s self-imposed freeze on missile and nuclear weapons tests to support his decision to continue talks with the the North Korean leader.

“We are aware of North Korea’s actions tonight,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement. “We will continue to monitor as necessary.”

Meanwhile, South Korean presidential spokesperson Ko Min-jung said that the launch “runs counter to the inter-Korean military agreement signed in September,” and is a source of “grave concern.”

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