The United States and Japan said Friday that North Korea’s launches the previous day, second in five days, were of ballistic missiles, which constitute a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions. The South Korean government, however, is apparently sticking to its assessment that they were short-range missiles, drawing criticism that Seoul is intentionally downplaying the North’s provocations in an effort to keep the negotiating process alive.
“North Korea flight-tested multiple ballistic missiles,” Pentagon spokesman Dave Eastburn said in a statement Thursday (local time). “The missiles flew east from the launch area to distances in excess of 300 km before impacting in the ocean.” This signals a shift from Washington’s cautious tone seen earlier when Pyongyang test fired projectiles Saturday, breaking a lull in its testing after a year and five months.
Yet, South Korea’s military insisted Friday that they evaluate the projectiles as “short-range missiles,” saying that the Pentagon’s statement does not appear to be an official stance of the U.S. Department of Defense. An official from South Korea’s presidential office also said Friday that “the U.S. government has not stated its official stance,” indicating the government’s judgment that the Pentagon spokesman’s statement cannot be considered an official position.
However, a diplomatic source in Washington told that “As far as I know, the Pentagon concluded through internal discussion that the projectiles were ballistic missiles, and shared the result with South Korea’s military,” suggesting a possibility that the Seoul government is sticking to its original assessment even after the United States has shared the analysis. President Moon Jae-in, during a special interview to commemorate the second anniversary of his taking office, said that “the North’s missile launches could be a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions if they are ballistic missiles,” but added his thought that the launches would not be a violation of the inter-Korean military agreement since the two Koreas have routinely conducted test-firing and drills to improve the existing weapons system.
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