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North Korea fires projectiles hours after offering talks with US

The US has said it is closely monitoring the situation.

President Donald Trump, with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in June this year.
President Donald Trump, with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in June this year.
Image: Young Ho/PA

NORTH KOREA HAS fired a number of projectiles toward the sea, South Korea’s military said, hours after Pyongyang said it is willing to hold talks with the United States.

Negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington have been gridlocked since a second summit between the North’s leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump in February ended without a deal.

North Korea twice launched “unidentified projectiles” this morning in an easterly direction that flew approximately 330 kilometres from the Kaechon area in South Pyongan province, according to the South Korean military.

“We urge the North to stop such acts that escalate tensions in the region,” South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.

No further details were immediately available but these were the latest to be fired since July. Previous launches have been identified as short-range missiles.

“We are aware of reports of projectiles launched from North Korea,” a senior US official said. “We are continuing to monitor the situation and consulting closely with our allies in the region.”

Trump and Kim had agreed to restart working-level talks during an impromptu meeting at the Demilitarised Zone dividing North and South Korea in June, but those talks have yet to begin.

“We have willingness to sit with the US side for comprehensive discussions of the issues we have so far taken up at the time and place to be agreed late in September,” Choe Son Hui, the North’s vice foreign minister, said in a statement yesterday. 

Choe’s comment followed her warning in late August that North Korea’s “expectations of dialogue with the US are gradually disappearing”, after Pyongyang conducted weapons tests to protest joint US-South Korean military exercises.

Asked about the proposal for lower-level talks in September, Trump told reporters: “I have a very good relationship with Chairman Kim. I always say having meetings is a good thing. We’ll see what happens.”

The period suggested by North Korea would correspond with the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Yesterday Choe recalled Kim’s comments that the North would wait until the end of the year for Washington to “quit its current calculation method”.

She repeated Pyongyang’s call for the US to come up with a “calculation method acceptable to us” or risk jeopardising the entire diplomatic process.

When asked by AFP about the latest North Korean offer, a State Department official replied: “We don’t have any meetings to announce at this time.”

- © AFP 2019 with reporting by Michelle Hennessy.

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