NORTH Korea has fired several new missiles today as simmering tensions with the West have once again started heating up.
The weapons were fired towards the East Sea at around 9am local time just days after Kim Jong-un’s regime threatened the US with “undesired consequences”.
South Korean officials said the missiles flew up to 200km (125 miles) before splashing into the sea toward the northeast.
It comes weeks after the rogue nation test-fired a new tactical guided weapon with a “powerful warhead”.
In a brazen taunt, dictator Kim watched the firing of the weapon at North Korea’s Academy of Defence Science.
And issuing a chilling warning, Kim said the test “serves as an event of very weighty significance in increasing the combat power of the People’s Army,” state media reported.
Precise details of the weapon have not been released – but it is said to have a “peculiar mode of guiding flight”, state media added.
“Tactical” implies it is a short-range weapon, as opposed to the long-range ballistic missiles that have been seen as a threat to the United States.
Today’s launch marks the second weapons test carried out by North Korea since Kim and US president Donald Trump’s second summit in Vietnam ended without agreement in February.
Earlier this month, North Korea warned the US it faces “undesired consequences” if it doesn’t meet its demands in nuclear talks by the end of the year.
Kim Jong-un’s regime is demanding the Trump administration show more flexibility – or else it will go back on its promise to scrap its deadly nuclear arsenal.
Pyongyang says it will only ditch its weapons programme if the US agrees to scrap crippling economic sanctions on the country.
And in another stinging personal attack on American officials, the North fired back at US Secretary of State for what it called his “‘foolish and dangerous” remarks on foreign policy.
Pompeo had warned the US could “change paths” if Kim Jong-un refused to cooperate.
But North Korea has angrily insisted that it could do the same – suggesting a return to provocative missile tests.
In a chilling threat, North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui said: “Changing paths is not a privilege that only the United States has – but it could be our own choice if we make up our mind.”
She added: “If the United States fails to reestablish its position within the timeline we gave, it will see truly undesired consequences.”
The comments mark the latest in a series of angry exchanges since the failed talks in Saigon.
North Korea had been seeking a deal to ease sanctions in exchange for dismantling some of its nuclear facilities.
But Trump called for a “big deal” in which sanctions would be lifted if Pyongyang handed over all its nuclear weapons to the United States.
Pompeo brushed aside the latest criticism of him from his North Korean counterparts.
He told Fox News he remained “hopeful” about prospects for advancing efforts to scrap the North’s nukes.
But he added pointedly that it was Pyongyang’s move.
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There have also been reports of new activity at a North Korean missile research centre and long-range rocket site.
North Korea is believed to be building long-range missiles targeting the US mainland.
The White House said it was aware of the report and had no comment.
In November last year, Kim had also overseen a test of an unidentified “tactical weapon” that could protect North Korea like a “steel wall”, state media said.
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Experts said that was part of Kim’s drive to put high-tech weapons in the hands of his nearly 1.3 million-strong army.
In April 2018, Kim had said North Korea would stop nuclear tests and launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles – because Pyongyang’s nuclear capabilities had been “verified.”
But US National Security Adviser John Bolton said on Wednesday that the United States needs to see “a real indication from North Korea that they’ve made the strategic decision to give up nuclear weapons.”