South Korea’s Blue House on Wednesday expressed what it described as “strong concerns” that an earlier North Korean missile test would impact diplomatic efforts towards peace on the peninsula.
The statement came following an emergency meeting of the Presidential National Security Council (NSC) standing committee held in response to Wednesday morning’s test, which Seoul has said was of two ballistic missiles.
“The NSC members voiced strong concerns that North Korea’s launches of two short-range ballistic missiles could have a negative impact on efforts to establish peace on the Korean Peninsula,” the Blue House said in a statement.
“[We] have decided to continue diplomatic efforts so that we do not lose the restarted momentum for the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, created after last month’s historic South-North-U.S. summit gathering (jongsang hoedong) on the 30th at Panmunjom,” it continued.
North Korea was reported early Wednesday to have launched two ballistic missiles from Hodo in South Hamgyong Province, in the country’s second such test in a week.
“The altitude of the short-range ballistic missiles launched this time was around 30km, and the flying distance is presumed to be around 250km,” the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) reported.
“North Korea’s launches of missiles are not conducive to efforts aimed at easing military tensions on the Korean peninsula. We urge them to stop such acts.”
The DPRK is believed to have launched the same missile as last week’s test, the JCS added. That missile, known to U.S. intelligence as the “KN-23,” was also twice tested in May.
North Korean media last week described it as a “tactical guided weapon,” following a launch it said was intended to send a “warning” to Seoul over its recent deployment of F-35A stealth jets to the peninsula and an upcoming joint military drill with the U.S.
Pyongyang’s renewed testing schedule comes amid broader uncertainty about prospects for planned DPRK-U.S. working-level discussion, originally slated to take place in mid-July.
Speaking to reporters Wednesday en route to Bangkok for the annual ASEAN forum, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters he remains optimistic about the potential for talks.
“We think they’ll be started before too long… I’m very hopeful,” Pompeo said, while accepting that organizing the meeting had taken “a little longer” than originally planned.
“There’s been a little bit of preliminary work to be done,” he explained. “I never want to set a date (but) I hope before too long we will have Special Representative Biegun sitting with what I think will be a new counterpart from North Korea.”
North Korean media is expected to report on the test early Thursday morning.
Additional reporting and editing by James Fretwell
Featured image: KCNA