North Korea's state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) announced the country has fired another round of missiles under the supervision of Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un. This is the fifth round of missile launches by the Hermit Kingdom in less than three weeks.

The firings are seen as an attempt by Pyongyang to muddle U.S.-South Korea relations while protesting the continuation of joint military drills by South Korea and the Americans. North Korea claims they are a rehearsal to an invasion, reports have said.

After the launches on Sunday, there were a series of tweets and statements from the three countries:

  • U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted that Kim wrote him a letter expressing some concerns about “ridiculous and expensive” U.S.-South Korea military exercises and offered him [Trump] “a small apology” for the recent missile tests.

  • North Korea’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement that blasted South Korea for continuing to host military drills and stressed that future dialogue [on nuclear talks] will be held strictly between Pyongyang and Washington and not between the Koreas.
  • Another statement released through KCNA by Kwon Jong Gun, director of the U.S. affairs department at Pyongyang’s Foreign Ministry, was critical of South Korea for its concerns over the North’s testing while carrying on drills with the U.S. Kwon added, “Given that the military exercise clearly puts us as an enemy in its concept, (the South) should think that an inter-Korean contact itself will be difficult to be made unless they put an end to such a military exercise or before they make a plausible excuse or an explanation in a sincere manner for conducting the military exercise.”

The missiles are a direct threat to South Korea but are not a threat to the U.S. mainland or other countries in the area. The tests might be an effort to coerce Seoul to get some major concessions from the U.S. that would benefit Pyongyang. Trump’s mild response to the recent launches may have given the North Koreans extra time to build some leverage before the stalled talks between Kim and Trump on sanctions relief and nuclear disarmament resume.

The KCNA announcement did not say if the weapons were ballistic missiles or rocket artillery but did say they would provide “advantageous tactical character different from existing weapons systems.” According to Kim Dong-yub, who is an analyst at Seoul’s Institute for Far Eastern Studies, the flight data and photos from North Korea indicate that Sunday’s launches are different than the short-range ballistic missiles of other recent tests.