US officials said Thursday that North Korea appears to have carried out yet another launch of an as-yet unidentified projectile, ratcheting up tensions on the Korean Peninsula a day after two missile launches and ahead of US-South Korean military drills that have angered Pyongyang.
Citing two unnamed US officials, Reuters reported on Thursday evening that Washington does not view the latest launch as a threat to the US mainland from the nuclear-armed pariah state, but that details about the launch are still unclear, including the number of projectiles involved.
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reports also reported the launch of an unidentified short-range projectile.
The latest reported launch came just hours after the United Kingdom, France, and Germany condemned North Korea’s ballistic missile launches as violations of UN sanctions and urged Pyongyang to engage in “meaningful negotiations” with the United States on eliminating its nuclear weapons.
The three countries also urged North Korea “to take concrete steps toward its complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization,” and said international sanctions should remain in place and be fully enforced until its nuclear and ballistic missile programs are dismantled.
The three countries’ joint statement to reporters came after a closed Security Council briefing Thursday by UN political chief Rosemary DiCarlo, as well as diplomatic consultations. The council did not issue any statement.
Russia’s deputy UN ambassador Dmitry Polyansky told reporters before the meeting that “we still have very little information” about the Wednesday launches. “Was it a ballistic missile or not ballistic missile? What was the launch? How many were launched?”
He said Russia tries to base its position “on trustworthy sources,” and “I don’t think we should rush to any conclusions to this.”
North Korea said Thursday its leader Kim Jong Un supervised the first test firing of a new multiple rocket launcher system that could potentially enhance its ability to strike targets in South Korea and US military bases there.
The report by the official Korean Central News Agency differed from the assessment by South Korea’s military, which had concluded Wednesday’s launches were of two short-range ballistic missiles.
Earlier Thursday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in Thailand that the Trump administration remains ready to resume talks with North Korea now. US President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un agreed to a meeting during talks late last month in the Demilitarized Zone between the two Koreas.
Under UN sanctions, North Korea is barred from using ballistic missiles.
The United Kingdom, France and Germany said “it is vital that the Security Council shows unity in upholding its resolutions.”
They also said that “serious efforts by North Korea to re-engage diplomatically and make progress on denuclearization are the best way to guarantee security and stability on the Korean Peninsula, as well as a brighter future for the people of North Korea.”
“Ultimately it is the North Korean regime that is responsible for the dire situation of its people,” the three nations said.