US seizes North Korean cargo ship for violating sanctions

A satellite image from Planet Labs shows the North Korean missile launch on May 4

South Korea's military chiefs said Kim Jong-un's hermit state fired an unidentified projectile on Thursday, less than a week after the crackpot leader oversaw the test-firing of multiple rockets and a missile.

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff a day earlier said it detected North Korea firing multiple projectiles toward the sea from near the eastern town of Wonsan. So far this year only 617 have been granted permission, the unification ministry said, little more than the monthly average during 2018, when a total of 6,689 Southern citizens went North to attend government meetings, sports games, cultural and reunions for families separated since the Korean War.

The launch comes less than a week after North Korea fired several short-range missiles on Saturday, the first such weapons test since November 2017.

Meanwhile, Trump said South Korea's humanitarian food aid to the DPRK would be a very timely and positive action, expressing his support for the South Korean food aid plan.

Kim and Trump's meeting in Vietnam in February - their second - ended at an impasse over American insistence that North Korea agree to denuclearize and Pyongyang's demands that the USA provide sanctions relief first.

The latest firing also came as officials from the United States and Japan were visiting South Korea, including U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun, to explore ways to resume the deadlocked nuclear talks.

The U.S. military said the drill involved a short-range ballistic missile, which was the first in almost 1.5 year.

Pyongyang informally adopted a freeze on missile flight tests from then on, and in April a year ago declared a "suspension" of nuclear and long-range missile tests, but a short-range test would not violate that unilateral suspension.

"The North Koreans aim to bring Trump back into the room", Mike Breen, author of The New Koreans, told Asia Times following Thursday's launch. Following the collapse of the Trump-Kim meeting, North Korea had demanded South Korea to proceed with inter-Korean economic projects held back by USA -led sanctions against the North.

Analysts said it was too soon to say exactly what kind of missiles they were.

David Maxwell, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, warned the US not to give in to North Korea's demands in the wake of the tests.

North Korea fired off two short-range missiles, according to officials in South Korea on May 9.

"If the North has something to say, then it has to clarify what it is dissatisfied with", he added, gently prodding the North Koreans to knock off their short-range missile tantrums.

The US also announced Thursday it had seized the North Korea registered bulk carrier M/V Wise Honest, a year after it was detained in Indonesia. While U.S. President Donald Trump has raised the abduction issue during his meetings with Kim, no substantial progress has been seen.

Longer-range ballistic missile tests, banned by the United Nations and seen as threatening by surrounding countries, would be likely to result in more sanctions. About 10 minutes later the Air Force Global Strike Command conducted its own test, launching an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.



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