SEOUL       -      North Korea continued to ramp up its weapons demonstrations by firing two presumed short-range ballistic missiles into the sea Tuesday while lashing out at the United States and South Korea for continuing military exercises that the North says could derail fragile nuclear diplomacy. North Korea’s fourth round of weapons launches in less than two weeks came amid a standstill in nuclear negotiations and after President Donald Trump repeatedly dismissed the significance of the country’s recent tests despite the threat the weapons pose to allies South Korea and Japan and to US bases there. Experts say Trump’s downplaying of the North’s weapons display has allowed the country more room to advance its military capabilities as it attempts to build leverage ahead of negotiations, which could possibly resume sometime after the end of the allies’ drills later this month. South Korea’s military alerted reporters to the launches minutes before the North’s Foreign Ministry denounced Washington and Seoul over the start of their joint exercises on Monday. The ministry’s statement said the drills, which North Korea sees as an invasion rehearsal, leave the country “compelled to develop, test and deploy the powerful physical means essential for national defence.”

The statement from an unidentified spokesperson said Pyongyang remains committed to dialogue, but it could seek a “new road” if the allies don’t change their positions.

“It is too axiomatic that a constructive dialogue cannot be expected at a time when a simulated war practice targeted at the dialogue partner is being conducted,” said the statement. “We remain unchanged in our stand to resolve the issues through dialogue. But the dynamics of dialogue will be more invisible as long as the hostile military moves continue.”

Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the two projectiles the North flew cross-country were likely short-range ballistic missiles. They were launched early Tuesday from an area near the North’s western coast and travelled about 450 kilometres (279 miles) on an apogee of 37 kilometres (23 miles) at a maximum speed of above Mach 6.9 before landing in waters off the country’s eastern coast, the JCS said.

It said the projectiles showed similar flight characteristics to short-range missiles North Korea fired on July 25, which travelled about 600 kilometres (373 miles) during launches the North described a “solemn warning” to South Korea over its plans to continue military drills with the United States.

South Korea’s military had said the flight data of the July missiles showed similarities to the Russian-made Iskander, a solid-fuel, nuclear capable missile that is highly manoeuvrable and travels on lower trajectories compared to conventional ballistic weapons, improving its chances of evading missile defence systems. The North last week also conducted two test firings of what it described as a new multiple rocket launcher system.