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ConflictsSouth Korea

South Korea wants to talk despite North Korea missile test

August 17, 2022

Just hours after North Korea test-fired two cruise missiles, the South repeated an offer to aid Pyongyang if it gave up a nuclear weapons program. Meanwhile, the US and South Korea prepare for a large military exercise.

South Korea's President Yoon Suk-yeol holds his first official news conference,
Yoon's call for Pyongyang to return to diplomacyImage: Chung Sung-Jun/Pool/REUTERS

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said Seoul has no plans to pursue its own nuclear deterrent, even as the North fired two missiles toward the sea in the latest display of an expanding arsenal.

Speaking at a wide-ranging news conference to mark his first 100 days in office on Wednesday, Yoon made no mention of the launches.

"I believe the NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty) regime is a very important and necessary premise for permanent world peace,'' Yoon said.

It comes just days after he offered economic assistance to North Korea if it abandons its nuclear weapons program.

He repeated the offer on Wednesday as he called for Pyongyang to return to diplomacy.

"Any dialogue between the leaders of the South and North or negotiations between working-level officials should not be a political show but should contribute to establishing substantive peace on the Korean peninsula and in Northeast Asia," he said.

North Korea fires two cruise missiles

The South Korean military said North Korea had earlier fired two cruise missiles from the west coast town of Onchon.

It was the first such missile test reported in months.

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff didn't immediately release further details, including how far the weapons traveled.

People at the Seoul Railway Station watch a television screen showing a file image of a North Korean missile launch
North Korea fired two cruise missilesImage: Lee Jin-man/AP/picture alliance

The launches came as the United States and South Korea started a preliminary drill Tuesday for their largest joint military exercise in five years.

The live field training exercise Ulchi Freedom Shield was scheduled for August 22 to September 1.

The North describes such drills as invasion rehearsals and has often responded to them with missile tests.

Denuclearization talks unlikely

North Korea's last nuclear test was in 2017, but tensions have risen on the Korean peninsula.

In July, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un warned his country was ready to mobilize its nuclear war deterrent.

The United Nations said North Korea could be preparing for a seventh nuclear test.

Kim considers the development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles as his strongest guarantee of survival and has rejected previous offers from the South to denuclearize.

Yoon said South Korea was not in a position to guarantee the North's security if it gave up its nuclear weapons, but he added that Seoul did not want a forced change in the status quo in the North.

"We are not telling them to 'denuclearize entirely first and then we will provide,'" Yoon said.

"What we are saying is that we will provide the things we can in correspondence to their steps, if they only show a firm determination [toward denuclearization].''

lo/sms (AP, Reuters)