North Korea test-fired two more missiles on Thursday morning, making 2019 the busiest year on record for North Korean missile testing.
Timed to coincide with Thanksgiving, the launch on Thursday is the 13th missile launch so far in 2019. Pyongyang has fired a total of 25 missiles this year, as it continues to let its military do the talking in its stalled negotiations with Washington.
The projectiles were fired from Yeonpo in the country’s eastern South Hamgyong Province into the waters off the east coast at around 4:59 p.m. local time, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said in a statement.
The missiles were fired within about 30 seconds of each other, and both flew around 240 miles, reaching a maximum altitude of 60 miles.
“Our military expresses strong regret over the acts and urges North Korea to immediately stop such moves,” Major General Jeong Dong Jin from the South Korean military told reporters.
Hours before the missile launch, a U.S. Air Force spy plane was seen conducting flights over the Korean peninsula, the third such flight in the space of just two days.
North Korea said earlier this month that the U.S.’ continued involvement in military exercises with South Korea amounted to a “betrayal,” and Pyongyang added that it no longer felt bound by its previous promises.
North Korea’s missile testing in 2019 has focused on its short-range missile technology, because Kim Jong Un promised to stop long-range and nuclear testing as part of an agreement reached with U.S. President Donald Trump during their first summit in Singapore last year.
While Trump has dismissed the short-range tests as inconsequential, U.S. allies in the region are much more concerned about the ongoing tests.
“We will remain in close contact with the United States, South Korea, and the international community to monitor the situation. We will increase our vigilance to preserve the safety and assets of the Japanese people,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters.
U.S.-North Korea negotiations on denuclearization have been stalled since a failed summit in Hanoi in February this year, when Trump walked away from the negotiating table.
Last month the two sides attempted to restart negotiations with working-level talks in Sweden, but those broke down without any progress. Days later, a spokesman for the North Korean Foreign Ministry warned that “there is a limit to our patience, and there is no law that anything we have refrained from so far will continue indefinitely.”
North Korea gave the U.S. until the end of the year to come up with a “new way” to overcome the current impasse or face a further escalation of military action.
“Pyongyang’s posturing vis-a-vis the U.S. over the past few months, particularly after the Stockholm talks, foreshadowed a more militaristic path forward for Pyongyang, and we are seeing that playing out,” Minyoung Lee, a senior analyst with North-Korea-focused website NK Pro, said.
Cover: A woman watches a news program reporting North Korea’s firing unidentified projectiles with a file image of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019. North Korea on Thursday fired an unidentified projectile, South Korea’s military said, three days after the North said its troops conducted artillery drills near its disputed sea boundary with South Korea. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)