North Korea 'test fires short-range missiles'

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Kim Jong-un watches a flight training on 16 April 2019Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Kim Jong-un held talks with the US president in February

North Korea has tested several short-range missiles, according to reports from South Korea.

They were fired from the Hodo peninsula in the east of the country, said South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff.

If confirmed, it will be the first missile launch since Pyongyang tested an intercontinental ballistic missile in November 2017.

Last month Pyongyang said it had tested what it described as a new "tactical guided weapon".

That was the first test since the Vietnam summit between the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, and US President Donald Trump, which ended without agreement.

President Trump walked away from what he described as a bad deal offered by Kim Jong-un in Hanoi in February.

On Saturday, the US president tweeted that he believed the North Korean leader would not do anything that could jeopardise his country's path towards better relations and economic normalisation.

"He also knows that I am with him and does not want to break his promise to me," President Trump wrote in the social media post.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
The second summit between President Trump and Mr Kim ended without agreement

Firing a short range missile would not violate North Korea's promise not to test long range or nuclear missiles.

But Pyongyang appears to be growing impatient with Washington's insistence that full economic sanctions remain until Mr Kim takes serious steps to dismantle his nuclear weapons programme, says the BBC's Laura Bicker.

"We are aware of North Korea's actions tonight," said White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders. "We will continue to monitor as necessary."

Nuclear test pledge

North Korea "fired a number of short-range missiles from its Hodo peninsula near the east coast town of Wonsan to the north-eastern direction from 09:06 (00:06 GMT) to 09:27," the South's Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.

The missiles flew for between 70km and 200km (45-125 miles) before landing in the Sea of Japan, they added.

Hodo has been used in the past for launching cruise missiles and long-range artillery testing.

According to the North Korea news agency (KCNA), April's test of a new "tactical guided weapon" was overseen by Mr Kim himself. It said the test was "conducted in various modes of firing at different targets", which analysts believe means the weapon could be launched from land, sea or air.

It is unclear if that weapon was a missile, but most observers agree that it was probably a short-range weapon.

Last year, Mr Kim said he would stop nuclear testing and would no longer launch intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Nuclear activity appears to be continuing, however, and satellite images of North Korea's main nuclear site last month showed movement, suggesting the country could be reprocessing radioactive material into bomb fuel.

The country claims it has developed a nuclear bomb small enough to fit on a long-range missile, as well as ballistic missiles that could potentially reach the mainland US.