|This photo, provided by the North Korean government, shows what it says the launch of a short-range ballistic missile from the east coast of North Korea. North Korea on Saturday extended its recent streak of weapons displays by firing what appeared to be two short-range ballistic missiles into the East Sea, according to South Korea's military. AP-Yonhap|
Trump says he received 'beautiful' letter from North Korean leader
By Park Ji-won
North Korea stepped up pressure on South Korea by firing a series of short-range missiles over weeks while trying to engage the United States for denuclearization talks. Its actions may pose a further security threat to Seoul, experts say.
The North fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the East Sea on Saturday according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, marking the fifth such firing since July 25. The North also boasted of it as a "new weapon."
Such military moves appear to be in protest of the combined military drills between Seoul and Washington, while aiming to test the capabilities of the North's new alleged short-range ballistic missiles, Cheong Wa Dae spokeswoman Ko Min-jung said in a written statement, Saturday, after an emergency online meeting between relevant ministers. The computer-based Combined Command Post Training began Sunday and will continue until Aug. 20. Ko also said the office urged the North to stop firing the projectiles as it incites "military tension" on the Korean Peninsula.
However, the North made it clear again on Sunday it will not resume talks with the South unless the South would stop the joint exercises with the U.S.
"Given that the military exercise clearly puts us as an enemy in its concept, they should think that inter-Korean contact itself will be difficult to be made unless they put an end to the military exercise or before they make a plausible excuse or an explanation in a sincere manner for conducting the military exercise," the Korean Central News Agency said in a press statement Sunday.
Pyongyang also ruled out the possibility of involving the South in a series of talks between the North and the U.S.
Meanwhile, hours after the North's launches, U.S. President Donald Trump disregarded the firing in his tweets stressing that the North would stop testing its weapons when the South-U.S. joint drills end while introducing a "nicely" written letter he received from Kim Jong-un recently. Trump called the exercises "ridiculous and expensive," echoing North Korea's claims about the drills the allies have held for years to prepare for emergencies including North Korea's provocations in the region.
The moves are coming before Seoul and Washington are set to hold annual negotiations for the defense cost sharing starting at the end of August. Trump has been publicly demanding Seoul pay more for the stationing of the U.S. military in Korea in a possible move to strengthen his bargaining power in the negotiations.
Experts say the North's moves are apparently taking advantage of its "cozy" relations with Trump and posing a security threat to Seoul and its alliance with Washington.
"Since he was a presidential candidate, Trump has been considering the alliance and the stationing of U.S. forces in South Korea from a cost-benefit perspective. The North, which is in control of the relationship with the U.S. for denuclearization talks, is taking advantage of Trump's thoughts as it has wanted the removal of the U.S. forces from the South and the breakdown of the Seoul-Washington alliance for so long to secure its regime stability," said Park Won-gon, a professor of international politics at Handong Global University.
Park stressed that Trump's seeming underestimation of the threats of the North's launches is de facto ignoring the Mutual Defense Treaty between Seoul and Washington. "The North's firing of projectiles is a security threat to the South and driving a wedge between the allies," he said.