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North Korea fires ballistic missiles after setting US talks

North Korea's Kim Jong Un before a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump on the south side of the Military Demarcation Line that divides North and South Korea, in the Joint Security Area of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized zone on June 30, 2019. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)

North Korea fired at least two ballistic missiles off its east coast Wednesday in a launch that came just hours after it said it would resume stalled talks with the U.S. over its nuclear program.

Japan said ballistic missiles were fired while South Korea’s military has yet to identify what it called projectiles fired from Wonsan, Kangwon Province.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said one of the missiles appeared to land in the country’s exclusive economic zone off Shimane prefecture. Neither country provided details on the distances traveled by the projectiles or a detailed flight path.

North Korea, which has a habit of raising the stakes in its dealings with the U.S. through military provocations, last launched missiles about a month ago, just hours after saying then it was willing to restart nuclear talks with the U.S.

The Wednesday launch came after North Korea’s state media reported it would restart working-level denuclearization talks on Saturday.

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The Korean Central News Agency quoted Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui as saying North Korea’s representatives are “ready to attend” talks and look forward to an improvement in U.S.-North Korea ties. The two sides agreed to have a “preliminary contact” the day before the talks, Choe is quoted as saying, without mentioning where the meeting would take place.

North Korea has previously criticized South Korea’s deployment of a new stealth fighter jet, which made its first public appearance during a military day Tuesday.

Pyongyang has fired off at least 15 missiles in 10 different military tests since May, extending the regime’s most prolific run of launches since President Donald Trump took office.

North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un and Trump agreed at a June 30 meeting in the demilitarized zone that divides the Korean Peninsula to hold working-level talks in a matter of weeks. But the two sides have not met since then to discuss details of a disarmament deal.

Little progress has been made toward an agreement on North Korea’s nuclear program despite three meetings between the two leaders. Meanwhile, weapons experts said North Korea has been adding fissile material to its nuclear arsenal and improving its ability to launch a nuclear strike against the U.S. as well as its allies Japan and South Korea.

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© 2019 Bloomberg News

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