North Korea fires more projectiles, rules out talks with South

Updated August 17, 2019

Email

South Korea says the projectiles launched from the North’s eastern coast flew about 230 kilometres.
South Korea says the projectiles launched from the North’s eastern coast flew about 230 kilometres.

SEOUL: North Korea on Friday bluntly criticised South Korean President Moon Jae-in for continuing to hold military exercises with the US and over his rosy comments on inter-Korean diplomacy, and said Pyongyang has no current plans to talk with Seoul.

The statement by an unidentified government spokesman came hours before South Korea’s military detected two projectiles North Korea fired into the sea to extend a torrid streak of weapons display that’s apparently aimed at pressuring Washington and Seoul over their joint drills and slow nuclear negotiations.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the projectiles launched from the North’s eastern coast flew about 230 kilometres on an apogee of 30 kilometres before landing in waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan. The US and South Korean militaries were analysing the launches but didn’t immediately say whether the weapons were ballistic missiles or rocket artillery.

The North has ignored South Korean calls for dialogue recently and is seen as trying to force Seoul to make stronger efforts to coax major concessions from Washington on its behalf.

Moon, in a televised speech on Thursday, said a momentum for dialogue remains alive despite the series of “worrying actions taken by North Korea recently.” He called for Pyongyang to choose “economic prosperity over its nuclear program.” The spokesperson of the North’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country said Moon’s comments would make a “boiled head of a cow (fall into) a side-splitting laughter.” “A sure thing is that the (South) Korean chief executive is (such a) funny man as he just reads what was written by his juniors,” the statement said, while avoiding calling Moon by his name.

The statement also criticised South Korea’s recent acquisition of advanced US-made fighter jets and said it would be “senseless” for Moon to believe that inter-Korean dialogue will automatically begin after the end of the ongoing US-South Korean drills. “We have nothing to (talk about) any more with (South) Korean authorities nor have any (plans) to sit with them again,” the statement said.

The North had recently said it would talk only with Washington and not Seoul, and that inter-Korean dialogue won’t resume unless the South offers a “plausible excuse” on why it keeps hosting military drills with the United States. Seoul’s Unification Ministry, which deals with inter-Korean affairs, criticised the North Korean statement, saying it wouldn’t help efforts to improve relations.

Pyongyang has also been demanding that Seoul turn away from Washington and restart inter-Korean economic projects held back by US-led sanctions against the North.

The United States has so far rejected North Korea’s demands for sanctions relief in exchange for piecemeal deals toward partially surrendering its nuclear capabilities and urged Pyongyang to commit to completely relinquishing its nuclear and missile programme.

Friday’s launches were North Korea’s sixth round of tests since late July, when it stepped up its weapons demonstrations while expressing frustration over stalemated nuclear negotiations with the United States as well as the US-South Korean drills that the North sees as an invasion rehearsal.

Published in Dawn, August 17th, 2019