North Korea launches two ballistic missiles, according to the South Korean military.
According to the South’s military, North Korea launched two ballistic missiles into the sea on Wednesday, as China’s foreign minister visited Seoul — Pyongyang’s second launch in less than a week.
Analysts said the timing was a clear warning to Beijing, the North’s most important diplomatic ally and economic and aid partner, despite their tense relationship at times.
Pyongyang has enforced a self-imposed ban after barring its borders to shield itself from the coronavirus outbreak earlier this year.
According to Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, the nuclear-armed North fired “two unidentified ballistic missiles” into the sea off its east coast from its central interior area.
“South Korean and American intelligence agencies are doing extensive analysis,” they continued, without specifying the missiles’ range.
The announcement came as Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with his South Korean colleague in Seoul.
Wang expressed his hope for “peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula” before the news broke, according to Yonhap news agency.
He continued, “For example, not only the North, but also other countries are engaging in military activity.”
“Having said that, we must all work together to reopen the lines of communication.”
International sanctions are in place on North Korea because of its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs, which it claims are necessary to defend itself from a US invasion.
Since the failure of a 2019 meeting in Hanoi between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and then-President Donald Trump over sanctions relief – and what Pyongyang would be ready to give up in exchange – talks with the US have been stuck.
After gaining power from his father and predecessor, Kim Jong Il, Kim did not visit China for more than six years, and tensions between the allies grew.
However, he and Chinese President Xi Jinping met several times after that, and Beijing considers the North to be an important component of its sphere of influence.
Wednesday’s launch, according to Yang Moo-jin, a professor at Seoul’s University of North Korean Studies, “seems like North Korea’s indirect message and even appeal to Beijing for the Korean peninsula to be treated as a priority agenda problem for China.”
“At the same time, Pyongyang appears to be stating and emphasizing that North Korea is leading the Korean Peninsula issue,” he continued.
The launches came only days after the North’s official Korean Central News Agency stated that a new “long-range cruise missile” had been successfully tested. Brief News from Washington Newsday.