Here are three scenarios for the North Korean crisis.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has declared that the latest series of missile launches by Pyongyang send “adequate warning” over the South Korea-US military drills.
The country’s state news media reported on Wednesday that Kim made the statement as he inspected on Tuesday the launch of a new type of tactical guided missiles – the fourth test in 12 days.
KCNA said Kim had watched the launches, which verified the “war capacity” of the new armament.
With the launches carried out satisfactorily, “Kim Jong Un noted that the said military action would be an occasion to send an adequate warning to the joint military drill now under way by the US and South Korean authorities,” KCNA said.
The drills are taking place despite Pyongyang’s warnings that the exercises would jeopardise nuclear negotiations between the US and North Korea.
In Tokyo on Wednesday, US Defence Secretary Mark Esper met with his Japanese counterpart, Takeshi Iwaya, to discuss the latest developments in North Korea, as well as tensions in the South China Sea.
Esper visited Australia and New Zealand before arriving in Japan. He will travel to Mongolia and South Korea during the latter part of his Asia trip.
On Tuesday, Pyongyang fired two projectiles that “are assumed to be short-range ballistic missiles” into the sea, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said earlier.
US President Donald Trump last week downplayed North Korea’s launches calling them “very standard”, while adding that Kim would not want to “disappoint” him.
Trump and Kim held an historic summit in Singapore last year, where North Korea made a vague pledge on denuclearisation.
Delay in talks likely
A second summit in Hanoi this February broke up amid disagreements over sanctions relief and what Pyongyang might be willing to give up in return.
The two agreed to resume nuclear talks during their impromptu June meeting in the Demilitarised Zone that divides the peninsula, but the working-level dialogue has yet to begin.
Analysts said the military manoeuvres on both sides could see discussions pushed back until the autumn, and Pyongyang signalled on Tuesday that it was in no mood to talk.
It called the drills a “flagrant violation” of the diplomatic process between Pyongyang, Washington and Seoul.
Pyongyang has always been infuriated by military exercises between South Korea and the US, seeing them as rehearsals for invasion, but in the past, it has tended to avoid carrying out missile tests while the war games were taking place.
US National Security Adviser John Bolton on Tuesday said the latest drills are “consistent with the partnership we have with South Korea.
“North Korea has continued its exercises unabated. So, they don’t really have a lot to complain about,” he told the Fox and Friends television show.