South Korea military exercises still on despite North's warnings

Friday, 02 Aug, 2019

A North Korean soldier defected by making a perilous midnight journey across the heavily fortified demilitarized zone into South Korea, defence officials in Seoul said Thursday, adding that they detained the man for questioning.

About 1,100 North Korean defectors arrived in South Korea a year ago, according to the South's Unification Ministry.

In the past a small number of South Koreans in economic difficulties have defected to the North, but Pyongyang has repatriated many of them as they hold little propaganda value.

Kim was quoted as saying the rocket system would play a "main role" in North Korea's land combat operations and cause "inescapable distress to the forces becoming a fat target of the weapon". Kim Jong-un personally oversaw the launch, according to Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

Prior to the official announcements, the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff announced Wednesday that North Korea had fired two projectiles that flew 155 miles and reached a maximum altitude of about 19 miles.

The North Korean military in the border regions has not shown any unusual movements, according to the JCS.

The two held tense talks on the sidelines of annual ASEAN-related meetings in Bangkok as the United States has expressed concern over the growing enmity between its two biggest allies in Asia. North Korea's foreign ministry warned earlier this month that the drills could force the regime to reconsider its moratorium on major weapons tests.

'The firing of these missiles don't violate the pledge that Kim Jong Un made to the president about intercontinental-range ballistic missiles, ' he said.

Ballistic missile launches by North Korea violate United Nations security council resolutions aimed at pressing the country to abandon its nuclear weapons program and Pyongyang is subject to extensive worldwide sanctions over its missile and nuclear weapons programs.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who referred to the last week's test as a "negotiating tactic", simply said Thursday in response to the latest launch that "we stand ready to continue our diplomatic conversation with the North Koreans".

Pyongyang fired short-range missiles.

Earlier last week, Kim visited a newly built submarine and expressed his satisfaction with its weapons system.

North Korea divulged very few details of the launch and released only a few pictures of the weapons, some of which were low quality or intentionally blurred.

Clad in military-type trousers and a belt, the body was found in the Imjin River and appeared to have been dead for at least two weeks, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported.

North Korea has accused Washington of breaking a promise by planning to go ahead with the military drills and has said they could derail dialogue.

Their statement came after a closed-door U.N. Security Council meeting. The Trump administration official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the official wasn't authorized to speak publicly. It was their first face-to-face meeting since they spoke briefly in late June on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Osaka.