North Korea fires short-range missiles into East Sea

"Our military is following up with the surveillance over possibility of additional launches," South Korea's Joint Chief of Staffs said.
Image: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un smiles as he guides missile testing at an unidentified location in North Korea
North Korea leader Kim Jong Un guides missile testing at an unidentified location in the county in an undated image.KCNA / via Reuters file

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By Stella Kim and Dennis Romero

SEOUL — North Korea fired two short-range missiles into the East Sea off its eastern coast at dawn Saturday local time, military officials in the United States and South Korea confirmed.

It wasn't initially clear what kind of projectiles were launched, but South Korean cabinet ministers said they believe the launch was a test of new short-range missiles' capabilities. It's the fourth such launch since late July.

"We are aware of reports of a missile launch from North Korea, and we continue to monitor the situation," a senior official in the administration of President Donald Trump said. "We are consulting closely with our Japanese and South Korean allies."

The South Korean Joint Chief of Staffs said in a statement, "Our military is following up with the surveillance over possibility of additional launches as well as maintaining our military preparedness."

South Korean cabinet ministers said Saturday that the missile launches were possibly intended as a show of force in the midst of U.S.-South Korean joint military exercises. The ministers urged North Korea to halt the display.

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North Korea's state news agency, reported Thursday that the Kim regime issued an open letter blaming joint military exercises for "escalating tension on the Korean peninsula and blocking the development of the inter-Korean relations."

Trump told reporters on Friday that he received another letter from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. He called the document "a great letter" and insisted the regime was not engaged in "ballistic missile tests."

"There have been no nuclear tests," Trump said. "The missile tests have all been short-range."

The launches since late July have involved short-range ballistic missiles in violation of United Nations resolutions to which the U.S. is a party. It was unclear if Saturday's missile was long- or short-range.

Short-range projectiles could feasibly reach U.S. military bases and allies.

Trump mentioned Friday to the media that Kim expressed dismay with "war games" conducted by South Korea and its allies, which include the United States.

"And, as you know, I've never liked it either," Trump said.

In June, Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met at the Demilitarized Zone that separates the two Koreas.

Trump said at the time that stalled nuclear talks would resume "within weeks." Kim said the meeting "means that we can feel at ease."

Stella Kim reported from Seoul and Dennis Romero from California.

Kristen Welker and Andrea Mitchell contributed.