North Korea Missile Launch August 2019 070819 CREDIT KCNA_0.jpg
North Korea

South Korea Downplays Recent Missile Threat From North Korea

Experts say Pyongyang's recent launches are aimed at building leverage ahead of resuming negotiations with the US.

North Korea Missile Launch August 2019 070819 CREDIT KCNA_0.jpg

A North Korea missile launch from August 2019 (Picture: KCNA).

South Korea has downplayed the threat posed by North Korea's recent short-range ballistic launches and expressed hope that Washington and Pyongyang would soon resume nuclear negotiations.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in also offered an olive branch to Japan to end a tense trade dispute, saying Seoul will "gladly join hands" if Tokyo accepts calls to resolve the situation through dialogue.

Moon's speech at a ceremony marking the 74th anniversary of Korea's liberation from Japanese colonial rule at the end of World War Two came amid heightened public anger over Tokyo's recent moves to impose trade curbs on South Korea.

Kim Jong Un watches North Korea Missile Launches Aug 2019 CREDIT KCNA.jpg
North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, watches a missile launch (Picture: KCNA).

Seoul has accused Tokyo of weaponizing trade to target its export-dependent economy and retaliate against South Korean court rulings calling for Japanese companies to offer reparations for ageing South Korean plaintiffs for their forced labour in World War Two.

Tokyo's measures struck a nerve in South Korea, where many people still harbour strong resentment over Japan's colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945.

Its trade row with Japan came amid worsening bilateral relations with North Korea, which has been ignoring Seoul's calls for dialogue and tested a slew of new short-range weapons in recent weeks that potentially expands its abilities targets throughout South Korea, including US military bases there.

Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un in North Korea
US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in North Korea, June 2019 (Picture: YONHAP PA).

Experts say Pyongyang's recent launches are aimed at building leverage ahead of the resumption of nuclear negotiations with the United States - which have stalled in recent months - and also dialling up pressure on Seoul to coax major concessions from Washington on its behalf.

Mr Moon said on Thursday: "In spite of a series of worrying actions taken by North Korea recently, the momentum for dialogue remains unshaken, which is a significant result of my government's peace process on the Korean Peninsula."

"Now is the time for both Koreas and the United States to focus on resuming working-level negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington at the earliest possible date."