North Korea has fired an ‘unidentified projectile’ today in the latest sign of escalation on the peninsula, according to the South.
The possible weapon was launched from a base in North Korea’s north-west and aimed toward the east, Seoul defence officials said.
It comes just days after the North launched rocket artillery and an apparent short-range ballistic missile into the ocean.
Satellite images shows the smoke trail, (pictured), of a short-range ballistic missile Sea launched into the sea by North Korea on Saturday
Today’s projectile was fired in an eastward direction and appeared to originate from Sino-ri in North Pyongan province.
South Korea is still analysing whether it was a single or multiple projectiles.
The decades-old Sino-ri operational missile base, 45 miles north-west of Pyongyang, is one of North Korea’s longest-running missile facilities.
It houses a regiment-sized unit equipped with Nodong-1 medium-range ballistic missiles, according to the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.
Anything fired from it in an easterly direction would have to cross the Korean peninsula before reaching the sea.
It came hours after the U.S. Special Representative on North Korea, Stephen Biegun, arrived in Seoul late on Wednesday for talks.
On Sunday, North Korean state media showed leader Kim Jong Un observing live-fire drills of long-range multiple rocket launchers.
They also showed what appeared to be a new short-range ballistic missile fired from a launch vehicle.
Pyongyang said criticism from South Korea about that launch was a ‘cock-and-bull story’ and claimed it was a regular defensive exercise.
A separate statement by a North Korean foreign ministry spokesman described the launches as a ‘routine and self-defensive military drill’.
A day earlier, the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said they detected the North firing multiple projectiles toward the sea from near the eastern town of Wonsan.
North Korea’s state media said that leader Kim Jong Un had overseen a rocket and tactical guided weapons test. Pictured is a satellite image taken just after the missile was launched
The launches are believed to have marked North Korea’s first ballistic missile test in more than 500 days.
The two Koreas last year vowed to cease ‘hostile acts’ to reduce tensions but Pyongyang has showed growing frustration at peace talks.
Kim Jong-un’s second summit with Donald Trump collapsed with no progress in February and the two nations have had a number of angry exchanges since then.
Kim has said he is open to a third meeting with Trump, but only if Washington offers mutually acceptable terms for an agreement by the end of the year.
South Korea’s presidential Blue House and Defence Ministry urged North Korea to refrain from acts that could escalate tensions.
The North Korean statements hinted that Saturday’s weapons launches werea response to joint military drills conducted by the United States and South Korea in March and April.
The test came just hours after US President Donald Trump, (left), said he still has faith in de-nuclearisation negotiations with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, (right)
The North also criticized the test of a U.S. Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missile from a U.S. Air Force base in California last week.
North Korea last conducted a major missile test in November 2017 when it flight-tested an intercontinental ballistic missile.
The weapons demonstrated potential capability to reach deep into the U.S. mainland.
Since then Kim has said the North would not test nuclear devices or ICBMs but diplomacy has stalled in recent weeks.
In bitter exchanges the North has taken relentless aim at U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Pyongyang launched an extraordinary attack on Pompeo last month, questioning ‘whether he is indeed unable to understand words properly’.
Happier times: North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un meets U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Pyongyang last year. Kim’s regime has demanded that Pompeo is replaced as envoy
Researchers in Washington believe that these satellite images, showing railcars at North Korea’s nuclear research site in Yongbyon, could be a sign that bomb fuel is being prepared
The North demanded that he stand down from nuclear talks to be replaced by someone who is more ‘careful and mature in communicating’.
‘I am afraid that, if Pompeo engages in the talks again, the table will be lousy once again and the talks will become entangled,’ an official said.
Last year he was condemned by the North for his ‘gangster-like’ insistence that the North move towards unilateral disarmament.
Satellite images which emerged from the North’s nuclear site in Yongbyon last month also sparked fears that Pyongyang was preparing bomb fuel.
A U.S. think tank said the pictures showed movement at the site which could indicate the reprocessing of radioactive material.
Satellite imagery from April 12 showed five specialised railcars near its Uranium Enrichment Facility and Radiochemistry Laboratory, the report said.
Sanctions against the North over its nuclear and missiles programmes remain in place.
Experts have estimated the size of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal at anywhere between 20 and 60 warheads.