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North Korea launched two short-range missiles on Thursday, marking the country’s second weapons test in less than a week. Fewer than 10 minutes later, the U.S. fired off an intercontinental ballistic missile test, Fox News reported.
South Korean joint chiefs of staff announced North Korea’s launch, noting that the missiles originated from the city of Kusong and traveled east approximately 260 miles.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Air Force tested a long-range missile in California. Vandenburg Air Force Base reported the missile flew 4,200 miles away into the Pacific Ocean.
The timing of the two launches was completely coincidental, according to Linda Frost, deputy of media operations of the Air Force Global Strike Command.
“It’s important to note that our test launch is not a response or reaction to world events,” Frost told Fox News. “The launch calendars are built three to five years in advance, and planning for each individual launch begins six months to a year prior to the launch.”
Thursday’s launch occurred while President Donald Trump’s negotiator, Stephen Biegun, visits Japan and South Korea to discuss denuclearization efforts in North Korea.
Jeffrey Lewis, an analyst for Microsoft Identity Integration Server, reported that North Korea’s missiles were not ballistic, as the trajectory was “too low” and the distance it traveled was not very far.
Initial reports put the apogee of the DPRK missiles at 50 km. That is too low for a ballistic trajectory at either stated ranges on a minimum energy trajectory. pic.twitter.com/EtC4gYhfHW
— Jeffrey Lewis (@ArmsControlWonk) May 9, 2019
On Saturday, North Korea fired a similar missile test, launching several short-range missiles from its east coast.
A North Korean media news site said in a statement that the missiles did not “pose any threat” to the U.S., South Korea, Japan and that the missile later dropped in “KPA-controlled waters northeast of the East Sea of Korea.”
Before its most recent tests, North Korea had not conducted a missile test since November 2017. That launch consisted of an intercontinental ballistic missile to prove North Korea had the firing power to reach U.S. mainland. Tensions since then have been somewhat quieted as Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un have met twice at different summits.
Although the two latest missile launches from North Korea were not as major, U.S. News noted that they no doubt challenge the “patience of Washington and Seoul at a contentious time as the two powers struggle to determine how to proceed in denuclearization talks while North Korea seeks to increase its leverage.”
While Trump did not immediately comment on Thursday’s launch, he did respond to Saturday’s, tweeting that North Korea’s leader “fully realizes” their “great economic potential” and will do “nothing to interfere or end it.”
Anything in this very interesting world is possible, but I believe that Kim Jong Un fully realizes the great economic potential of North Korea, & will do nothing to interfere or end it. He also knows that I am with him & does not want to break his promise to me. Deal will happen!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 4, 2019
“Deal will happen!” Trump also said after commenting that Kim does not “want to break his promise to me.”
Kim has said he is willing to participate in a third meeting but wants an agreement and mutually acceptable terms decided by the end of this year.