North Korea today launched three ballistic missiles, US military officials said, dampening President Donald Trump’s optimism to strike a deal with Pyongyang to contain its rapidly expanding nuclear weapons programme.
The US Pacific Command said the missiles launched into the sea east of the Korean Peninsula appeared to be short- range. The first and second missiles “failed in flight” and the third “appears to have blown up almost immediately”.
It said the North American Aerospace Defence Command determined the missile launches did not pose a threat to Guam, which the North previously warned it would target if provoked.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Trump has been briefed and “we are monitoring the situation.”
North Korea last month fired intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the US mainland, triggering heightened rhetoric from both the sides.
Trump had warned of “fire and fury” and days later ramped up his threat, saying “maybe that statement wasn’t tough enough”.
But the US president this week indicated a deal could be struck with North Korea to contain its nuclear weapons programme. His comments had come soon after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the North has demonstrated some level of restraint in recent days, “that we’ve not seen in the past”.
Tillerson had hoped that this could be the beginning of the signal from Pyongyang the US had been looking for.
Today’s missiles launches, though failed, reignite the possibility of increasing tensions in the peninsula.
They come during a joint military exercise between the US and South Korea. The two countries say the annual military exercise is defensive but Pyongyang condemns it as hostile, and even as a rehearsal for invasion.
In response to the ICBM launches in July, the UN Security Council unanimously imposed new sanctions on North Korea on August 5.