September 9, 2019 / 11:11 PM / 3 months ago

UPDATE 3-North Korea offers talks then launches more short-range projectiles

* North Korea launches two unidentified projectiles

* Launches follow statement about willingness to restart talks

* Projectiles appear to be short-range - U.S. official

* Denuclearisation talks stalled since failed summit in February (Adds launch details, South Korea statement, U.S. official’s comment, paragraphs 2, 7, 12; adds bullet points)

By Joyce Lee

SEOUL, Sept 10 (Reuters) - North Korea fired two unidentified projectiles on Tuesday morning, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said, hours after a senior diplomat announced Pyongyang would be willing to resume negotiations with the United States later in September.

The “short-range projectiles” were launched from around Kaechon in South Pyongan province at around 7:00 a.m. KST (2200 GMT Monday) towards the east and flew about 330 km (205 miles), the JCS said in a statement.

The launches came after North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui said on Monday Pyongyang was willing to have “comprehensive discussions” with the United States in late September at a time and place to be agreed.

Tuesday’s launch was the eighth by North Korea since U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met at the heavily militarised border between the two Koreas in June.

Trump and Kim agreed then to restart working-level negotiations for denuclearisation talks that had stalled since an unsuccessful second summit between Trump and Kim in Hanoi in February.

A senior Trump administration official said: “We are aware of reports of projectiles launched from North Korea. We are continuing to monitor the situation and consulting closely with our allies in the region.”

Another U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said initial information indicated North Korea had launched two projectiles that appeared to be short range.

North Korea has previously said its development of new weapons is to counter military threats and offensive pressures against its own security.

However, analysts say the string of launches highlight how North Korea has been able to further develop its military capabilities in the absence of any concrete agreement with the United States.

Many of the latest missiles launched by North Korea appear to be new types designed to evade interception by U.S., South Korean and Japanese missile defence systems.

A Japanese defence ministry official said on Tuesday there was no confirmation of any ballistic missile entering Japan’s territory or exclusive economic zone and that there was no immediate threat to national security.

South Korea expressed “strong concern” over North Korea’s continued short-range launches since May, and checked the overall military and security situation on the peninsula at a national security council meeting called to discuss the latest launch, the presidential office said in a statement. (Reporting by Joyce Lee, Hyonhee Shin, and Josh Smith in Seoul; additional reporting by Makini Brice and Idrees Ali in WASHINGTON; Editing by Chris Reese and Paul Tait)

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