JEJU, South Korea — North Korea fired several short-range projectiles off its east coast on Saturday, in a move likely to raise tensions as denuclearization talks with the United States remain stalled.
The South Korean military said in a statement that the North had fired several short-range projectiles between 9:06 a.m. and 9:27 a.m. from near Wonsan, a coastal town east of Pyongyang, the capital. The projectiles flew 70 to 200 kilometers before they landed in the sea between North Korea and Japan, it said.
An earlier statement from the military said the North had fired a single missile, but the later statement used the vaguer term “projectile.” The military has used that term in the past to describe North Korean missile launches when it was too soon to determine exactly what kind of missile had been deployed.
A Pentagon spokesman, Chris Sherwood, said officials there were looking into the launch and were unable to confirm anything.
A missile test would be the North’s first since 2017. In mid-April, the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un attended a test of what the country called a new type of “tactical guided weapon.” That, along with Saturday’s test, signaled that Mr. Kim intended to escalate tensions in an attempt to gain leverage with the United States.
In February, Mr. Kimmet for the second timewith President Trump, hoping to win relief from sanctions in return for a partial dismantlement of his country’s nuclear weapons facilities. But that meeting, in Hanoi, Vietnam, collapsed after Mr. Trump refused to lift sanctions until North Korea relinquished all its nuclear weapons.
North Korea has since vowed not to buckle under international pressure even if its people have to survive on “water and air only,” state media said. Mr. Kimgave Washington until the end of the yearto show more flexibility, or he said his country would seek an alternative to diplomatic negotiations.
North Korea has repeatedly said it would find “a new way” to defend its national interests if Washington did not ease sanctions. Analysts have speculated that the North might resume weapons tests.
“Clearly, Pyongyang is frustrated with the conclusion of the recent summit with Washington in Vietnam that did not produce any breakthrough,” said Harry J. Kazianis, director of the Washington-based Center for the National Interest. “It also seems clear that North Korea is angry over what appears to be a lack of flexibility in the Trump administration’s position on relieving sanctions, sticking to a policy of ‘maximum pressure.’”
Mr. Kazianis said that Kim Jong-un “has decided to remind the world — and specifically the United States — that his weapons capabilities are growing by the day. My fear is that we are at the beginning stages of a slide back to the days of nuclear war threats and personal insults, a dangerous cycle of spiking tensions that must be avoided at all costs.”
After conducting its last intercontinental ballistic missile test in November 2017, Mr. Kim announced a moratorium on nuclear and long-range ballistic missile tests. Although the test of a short-range missile would not violate the self-imposed ban, it would undermine what Mr. Trump has repeatedly described as his biggest diplomatic achievement with North Korea.
Experts said the April test was likely a demonstration of a conventional weapons system, possibly artillery or antiaircraft — and also a message directed by Mr. Kim to Washington that North Korea would continue to amass weapons while the diplomatic standoff continued.
Although the North did not specify what kind of weapon was used in the April test, there was no evidence it involved a nuclear detonation or an intercontinental ballistic missile.
That test was the North’s first weapons test since November 2018, when it said that Mr. Kim had attended the test of an unidentified “newly developed ultramodern tactical weapon.” South Korean news media, citing government sources, said that the North appeared to have tested multiple-rocket launchers, which are considered one of the greatest military threats to the South besides nuclear weapons and missiles.