North Korea has reportedly fired two ballistic missiles off its east coast amid a prolonged deadlock in denuclearization talks with the United States.
The two missiles launched from a site in central North Korea flew toward the waters of the Korean Peninsula’s east coast on Wednesday afternoon, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.
The missiles are believed to have landed outside Japan's exclusive economic zone, the country's coast guard said.
This comes two days after North Korea said it had successfully tested new long-range cruise missiles inside its own territorial waters, a first missile launch since March.
The North’s official KCNA media outlet reported the test on Monday, adding that the missiles deployed during the test flew 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) before hitting their designated targets.
The North hailed its new missiles as a “strategic weapon of great significance,” which is an “effective deterrence means for more reliably guaranteeing the security of our state and strongly containing the military maneuvers of the hostile forces.”
Analysts say the missile could be the country's first such weapon with a nuclear capability.
Following the reported launch, Japan's Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said if the information on the success of North Korea's cruise missile tests is confirmed, it could become a “potential threat” to the peace and security of the region.
Wednesday’s test comes amid a continued standoff between the North and the United States, which has been exhausting its sanctions machine aimed at supposedly denuclearizing the North.
The two sides have held unprecedented talks under former US president Donald Trump aimed at dismantling Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs in return for Washington’s sanctions relief.
Trump, however, refused to relieve any of the sanctions against the North in return for several steps taken by Pyongyang toward denuclearization. That hampered further diplomacy and prompted Kim to announce an end to a moratorium on North Korea's missile tests.
The negotiations have stalled since 2019.
South Korea, China hold talks over North missile test
Separately on Wednesday, the foreign ministers of South Korea and China held a meeting in Seoul amid concerns over North Korea’s recent missile test as well as stalled denuclearization negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington.
At the start of the meeting, South Korea's National Security Council chief Chung Eui-yong vowed to continue fostering peace with the North, expressing hope that the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing could provide a chance to kick-start that effort.
“We expect China will consistently support our government’s Korea peninsula peace process,” Chung told his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi.
Wang also asked for further cooperation to expand common interests and “more quickly, stably and fully” strengthen diplomatic ties, which mark their 30th anniversary next year.
Officials from the United States, South Korea, and Japan held a meeting in Tokyo on Tuesday to discuss North Korea following its recent missile-test, during which they agreed on the urgent need for dialogue and diplomacy to resume denuclearization talks, according to South Korea’s foreign ministry.
The trilateral meeting came as US President Joe Biden has expressed unwillingness to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Earlier in March, when White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked by reporters if Biden's diplomatic approach to Pyongyang would include sitting down with Kim, Psaki said, “That is not his (Biden's) intention.”
The US and South Korea depict the North's missile and nuclear programs as a threat, while Pyongyang says the substantial US military presence on the peninsula threatens its national security.
China, North Korea’s sole major ally, has played a key role in efforts to press it to dismantle its nuclear programs.