North Korea's Kim oversees new 'long-range artillery' drill: KCNA

SEOUL, South Korea, March 10 ------ North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has overseen another "long-range artillery" drill, state media reported on Tuesday, a day after Japan said the nuclear-armed country had fired what appeared to be ballistic missiles. It was the second-such "drill" in a week and comes as a prolonged hiatus in disarmament talks with the United States drags on. Kim "guided another firepower strike drill of long-range artillery" and "highly appreciated the perfect combat readiness" of the forces, KCNA said.

The North has been continuing to refine its weapons capabilities, analysts say, more than a year after a summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump broke down in Hanoi. Pyongyang is under multiple sets of United Nations, US and other sanctions over its weapons programs. The North "appeared to have carried out joint firing drills involving various types of multiple rocket launchers", South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said on Monday, expressing "strong regret" over Pyongyang's actions. The military leadership in Seoul initially said three projectiles were involved, before changing the description to "multiple".

The devices were fired northeast into the sea from South Hamgyong province and flew 200 kilometers (124 miles) at a maximum altitude of 50 kilometers, the Joint Chiefs said. That was slightly shorter but also slightly higher than last Monday's firing of what the South's military described as two short-range ballistic missiles. A US State Department spokesperson called on North Korea to "avoid provocations" and abide by UN Security Council resolutions. Pyongyang should "return to sustained and substantive negotiations to do its part to achieve complete denuclearization," the spokesperson said.

The State Department did not offer details on the latest launches but a Japanese defense ministry spokesman said North Korea had appeared to fire "ballistic missile(s)" -- which it is banned from doing under Security Council resolutions.