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Tensions rise as North Korea launches more missiles; US seizes coal ship

North Korea fired what appeared to be two short-range missiles on Thursday in its second such test in less than a week, and the United States announced it had seized a North Korean cargo ship as tensions again mounted between the two countries.

US President Donald Trump said “nobody is happy” at the missile launches, which South Korea said were likely a protest by Pyongyang against Trump refusing to ease economic sanctions on the North. The United States has given no sign of willingness to budge on sanctions and on Thursday the Justice Department announced the seizure of a North Korean cargo vessel it said was involved in the illicit shipping of coal.

North Korea has effectively pulled back from engagement with Washington since a summit between leader Kim Jong Un and Trump in February fell apart without agreement on U.S. demands for the dismantling of Pyongyang’s nuclear programme and Kim’s demands for relief from punishing sanctions. “The relationship continues... I know they want to negotiate, they’re talking about negotiating. But I don’t think they’re ready to negotiate,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Thursday.

Less than a week ago, Kim oversaw the test-firing of multiple rockets and a missile and the latest tests coincided with a visit to the South Korean capital by US special envoy for North Korea, Stephen Biegun. The two missiles fired on Thursday went east from the northwestern area of Kusong, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said.


They covered distances of 420 km (260 miles) and 270 km (168 miles) and reached an altitude of about 50 km (30 miles) before falling into the sea, they said. Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Dave Eastburn said: “We’re aware of the reports and monitoring.” “North Korea seemed to be discontented it could not reach a deal in Hanoi,” South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in told South Korean broadcaster KBS, referring to the summit in Hanoi with Trump.

South Korea’s Moon said that even if the missiles fired on Thursday were short range, they could still violate UN resolutions barring North Korea from developing its ballistic missile force.

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