By Jon Dougherty
(NationalSentinel) North Korea fired a pair of short-range ballistic missiles into the ocean on Saturday, according to South Korean military sources, as denuclearization talks between Washington and Pyongyang stall and following a collapse in an intelligence-sharing agreement between Seoul and Tokyo.
Saturday’s launch was the seventh since President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong-un met at the North-South Korea border in June. Since then, denuclearization talks have stalled, and the North has shown increasing frustration over continued U.S. economic sanctions.
During their visit, Trump and Kim reportedly pledged to renew talks. Trump said this month that Kim informed him he is ready to revisit negotiations and would stop testing missiles as soon as U.S.-South Korea military exercises ended.
But while those exercises have concluded, missile tests continue. North Korea’s continued launches caused “strong concern,” South Korea’s National Security Council (NSC) said on Saturday.
The president said following the latest launches the United States has a good relationship with North Korea. “Kim Jong Un has been … pretty straight with me,” Trump told reporters at the White House.
Still, the North has ramped up its rhetoric of late as well, criticizing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and characterizing him as a “diehard toxin” in state-run media.
“The U.S. should clearly understand that we do not have a lingering attachment on sanctions relief and that we will never barter the strategic security of the country for the sanctions relief,” a commentary on North Korean state media KCNA said on Saturday. (Related: Media and Dems fret Trump will ‘blow’ North Korea negotiations but he’s already accomplished more than his predecessors)
As for South Korea and Japan, Seoul said this week it would withdraw from an intelligence-sharing arrangement with Japan regarding a rift over trade that many analysts believe is actually tied to South Korea’s lingering animosity towards Japan over World War II abuses.
“Why this matters: If Seoul follows through on its threat, it will give the North Koreans and the Chinese a diplomatic and security fissure to exploit at a time when the United States needs South Korean and Japanese cooperation to pursue a denuclearization agreement with Pyongyang,” Strategic Observer reported Thursday.
“Also, diminished security cooperation between two U.S. allies means Washington will have less force to bring to bear on the North should negotiations completely bottom out and the Trump administration is forced to again consider military options to curb Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions,” the site added.
“This rift also comes at a time when the North has conducted a series of missile tests in recent weeks and Japanese intelligence officials are set to report that the North has managed to successfully miniaturize nuclear warheads and as such, poses ‘a serious and imminent threat’ to Tokyo.”
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