Provocative Rocket Man Threatens Diplomacy as US Confiscates North Korean Cargo Ship

People watch a TV showing a news program reporting North Korea's missile launch at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul South Korea

The latest launches came as U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun visited South Korea, and hours after the North described its firing of rocket artillery and an apparent short-range ballistic missile on Saturday as a regular and defensive military exercise.

North Korea held two missile launch tests in less than a week inviting sharp reactions from South.

Pyongyang, Seoul and Washington had all refrained from explicitly calling Saturday's launch a missile - the South used the term "projectile" - which could jeopardise the ongoing diplomacy if it violated UN Security Council bans on ballistic technology as well as Kim's announcement of an end to long-range missile tests.

"We may be entering a period of heightened tensions", Breen warned, but he noted that today's launch is not a game changer.

The Iskander missile system has been part of the Russian arsenal since 2006.

South Korea's military said it had stepped up monitoring and security in case of another launch, and was working with the United States to get additional information on the missiles involved. He didn't want to be named, citing office rules.

But one of the two projectiles it launched from Kusong, 160 kilometers northwest of the capital, Thursday traveled more than 400km before splashing into the East Sea, he added. It is one of North Korea's longest-running missile facilities, according to the Washington-based think-tank Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Saturday's launch of a short-range missile from an east coast area was the North's first test of a ballistic missile since it launched an intercontinental ballistic missile in November 2017.

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Friday's event also brought together Megumi Yokota's younger brother Takuya, Koichiro Iizuka, a son of Yaeko Taguchi who was kidnapped from an unknown location in 1978 at the age of 22, and Fred Warmbier, father of Otto Warmbier, a University of Virginia student who died in 2017 following more than a year in detention in North Korea.

President Moon Jae-in (right) talks to a reporter during an interview with KBS at Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on Thursday.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim agreed at a summit with Kim a year ago to "make joint efforts to alleviate the acute military tension and practically eliminate the danger of war on the Korean Peninsula".

It was a "long-range strike" drill, the official Korean Central News Agency said, without specifying what kind of weapon was sacked and avoiding the words missile, rocket or projectile. -North Korea standoff could end in war - it may signal that North Korea is turning away from diplomacy.

On Tuesday, the ROK's military called on the DPRK to "stop escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula", saying their recent move goes against the spirit of the inter-Korean military agreement, according to Yonhap News Agency. In Seoul, people watch a TV showing footage of a previous missile launch by North Korea.

In Geneva on Thursday, North Korean Ambassador Han Tae Song likened the economic sanctions to "crimes". "And also to stabilise this situation as soon as possible by completing, in the near future, a comprehensive plan of action on denuclearization and reciprocal measures, that both the United States and North Korea will be ready to accept, so that Pyongyang can return to denuclearisation talks", Cheong Seong-Chang concluded.

The Yomiuri Shimbun Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told U.S. President Donald Trump during telephone talks on Monday night that he aims to realize a bilateral meeting with North Korea leader Kim Jong Un to resolve the issue of the abduction of Japanese nationals by North Korea without setting any preconditions.

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