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Kim Jong Un: Missile launch a 'warning' to U.S., South Korea

By Thomas Maresca
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Kim Jong Un: Missile launch a 'warning' to U.S., South Korea
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un oversees the country's fourth series of missile launches in less than two weeks in photos released Wednesday by the state-run Korean Central News Agency. Photo by KCNA/UPI | License Photo

SEOUL, Aug. 7 (UPI) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called his country's fourth set of missile launches in less than two weeks a "warning" to South Korea and the United States over an ongoing joint military exercise, North Korea's state media reported on Wednesday.

The message came a day after two projectiles, believed to be short-range ballistic missiles, were fired from the western side of North Korea, traveling across the country and into the Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea.

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The missiles traveled roughly 280 miles at an altitude of 23 miles, according to South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Kim called the missile launch "an adequate warning to the joint military drill now underway by the U.S. and South Korean authorities," KCNA reported.

RELATED South Korea national security chief warns of more North Korea provocations

"The demonstration fire clearly verified the reliability, security and actual war capacity of the new-type tactical guided weapon system," the report said, claiming the missiles "precisely hit the targeted islet" in the sea.

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The latest launch came a day after the United States and South Korea began a scheduled joint military exercise. North Korea has long viewed such drills as a provocation and a rehearsal for invasion, and on Tuesday, a foreign ministry spokesman condemned the exercises as "hostile moves" that could derail future nuclear negotiations.

The ministry spokesman called the exercises an "undisguised denial and flagrant violation" of agreements North Korea made with the United States and South Korea at a series of summits held since 2018.

RELATED North Korea visitors no longer eligible for visa-free travel to U.S.

The spokesman said the exercises are "dramatically dampening down" the prospects of future dialogue and warned that the North may be "compelled to seek a new road."

Talks between North Korea and the United States have been at an impasse since a February summit between Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump held in Hanoi, Vietnam, ended abruptly without an agreement.

A surprise meeting between Trump and Kim on June 30 inside the Demilitarized Zone sparked anticipation for a new round of negotiations, but working-level talks have not resumed.

RELATED North Korea bristles at joint South Korea-U.S. military exercise

The Trump administration has downplayed the recent round of launches, which began on July 25 and continued on July 31, Friday and Tuesday.

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Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Wednesday that the United States was "not going to overreact" to the latest launches and would "keep the door open for diplomacy."

In an interview on Fox News, national security adviser John Bolton said Trump and Kim "have an understanding that Kim Jong Un is not going to launch longer-range, intercontinental-range ballistic missiles, and so I think the president is watching this very, very carefully."

RELATED North Korea fires unidentified projectiles off east coast: JCS

Trump tweeted over the weekend that the launches did not violate the agreements he reached with Kim at a June 2018 Singapore summit, saying that "there was not a discussion of short-range missiles when we shook hands."

He added that Kim has a "great and beautiful vision for his country" and "does not want to disappoint his friend, President Trump!"

North Korea is banned from developing or testing ballistic missiles under United Nations Security Council resolutions. South Korea's military has assessed that the new missiles fired from North Korea are similar to the Russian Iskander, which is highly maneuverable and was designed to evade missile defenses.

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