SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea said on Friday its latest missile launch was a warning to South Korean “warmongers” to stop importing weapons and conducting joint military drills, a message that analysts said was also aimed at the United States.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un personally watched the test-fire of two short-range ballistic missiles on Thursday, the first test since Kim met with U.S. President Donald Trump last month and agreed to revive denuclearization talks.
The missile tests raises doubts about the revival of denuclearization talks, which stalled after the collapse of a second summit between Kim and Trump in Hanoi in February.
“We cannot but develop nonstop super-powerful weapon systems to remove the potential and direct threats to the security of our country that exist in the south,” Kim said, according to state news agency KCNA.
In a statement on Friday, Colonel Lee Peters, a spokesman for the combined command of U.S. and South Korean troops, said the launches “were not a threat directed at [South Korea] or the U.S., and have no impact on our defense posture.”
In public statements, Pyongyang has shown increasing frustration that South Korea has not followed through on promised economic cooperation or peace agreements, all while importing the latest F-35 stealth fighters and conducting military drills with the United States.
The KCNA report did not mention Trump or the United States, but said Kim criticized South Korean authorities for staging joint military exercises, which Trump promised to end after his first meeting with Kim in June 2018.
North Korea accused Washington of breaking that promise by planning to hold joint military exercises with South Korea next month and warned of a possible end to its freeze in nuclear and long-range missile tests.
While Friday’s message is very clearly directed at Seoul, it does send signals to Washington as well, said Jenny Town, managing editor at 38 North, a project that studies North Korea.
“On some level, this is like North Korea’s version of maximum pressure on South Korea and the United States.”