North Korea says it tested new rocket system

A South Korean army post with a security camera stands in the fortified Demilitarised Zone

A South Korean army post with a security camera stands in the fortified Demilitarised Zone

Kim oversaw the first test firing of a "new-type large-caliber multiple launch guided rocket system" on Wednesday, North Korean state media reported.

US officials have played down the tests. "They are continuing to pressure the USA before they hold these working-level talks to get to a more flexible state".

The launches from the eastern coastal town of Wonsan were North Korea's second weapons test in less than a week and were seen as a move to keep up pressure on Washington and Seoul amid a stalemate in nuclear negotiations.

The U.N. Security Council is expected to discuss the latest launches behind closed doors Thursday at the request of the United Kingdom, France and Germany, council diplomats said.

South Korean nuclear envoy Lee Do-hoon met U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun on Wednesday on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum in Bangkok.

North Korea's latest missile launches did not violate a pledge its leader Kim Jong Un made to U.S. President Donald Trump, a senior U.S. official said on Thursday, but efforts to resume denuclearization talks remained in doubt. North Korea's foreign ministry warned earlier this month that the drills could force the regime to reconsider its moratorium on major weapons tests. The spy agency believes the North would want to demonstrate its displeasure over the planned U.S.

The North's testing activity could intensify if the negotiations do not proceed rapidly over the next few months, said Srinivasan Sitaraman, a North Korea expert at Clark University in MA.

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said Wednesday that the weapons it then assessed as missiles flew about 250 kilometers (155 miles) at an apogee of 30 kilometers (19 miles), a range that would be enough to cover the region surrounding Seoul and a major USA military base just south of the city.

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It followed six days after the launch of two similar short-range ballistic missiles, North Korea's first tests since Kim and Trump met on June 30 and agreed to revive stalled denuclearization talks.

Weapons experts said the missiles fired Wednesday were likely the same as the ones North Korea fired last week - its KN-23 solid-fuel, short-range ballistic missile. The two missiles fired last week traveled at a speed and trajectory that could enable them to avoid interception by USA antimissile systems on the peninsula.

People watch a TV broadcast of a news report on North Korea firing short-range ballistic missiles, in Seoul, South Korea, July 31, 2019.

Japan, the United States and South Korea plan to hold a foreign ministerial meeting Friday in Bangkok, with Washington likely to play a mediating role in an effort to defuse tensions between the two key US allies, sources familiar with Tokyo-Seoul ties said Wednesday.

The launch provided an awkward greeting for Pompeo, even if Trump has dismissed the tests of such "smaller" weapons.

Pompeo said earlier he will hold trilateral talks with Kono and Kang in Bangkok, but he did not provide details.

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho canceled a planned visit to the ASEAN forum but Pompeo said the Americans were still open to a meeting. Instead, North Korea's ambassador to Thailand is set to attend, all but ruling out the chances of a meeting. "We'll see if they are there and if they are I'm confident we will meet". North Korea's state media didn't immediately release images of the test. The regime has previously accused him of "gangster-like" tactics and in April, North Korea demanded his removal from the nuclear negotiations.

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