TOKYO — North Korea launched two missiles Thursday, Oct. 31, marking its 12th test since May, in an apparent effort to pressure the United States to return to denuclearization talks with a better offer.

The missile test comes four days after North Korea warned it was losing patience with the United States and its "hostile policy" and restated its end-of-year deadline for Washington to change its approach.

The missiles were launched from the province immediately north of the capital, Pyongyang, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement. Japan's Defense Ministry said the first projectile appeared to be a ballistic missile but did not fall in its territorial waters or exclusive economic zone.

The missiles were fired a day after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un sent a condolence letter to his South Korean counterpart, Moon Jae-in, over the death of his mother.

Kim expressed his "deep condolences" and offered a "consoling message to President Moon" in the letter delivered via the border village of Panmunjom late Wednesday, South Korea said Thursday.


But the missile tests only underlined how badly relations have deteriorated this year between North and South Korea, and with the United States.

Talks between North Korean and U.S. officials broke down in Stockholm earlier this month. After an eight-month stalemate, the United States had hoped to breathe new life into the negotiations, but North Korea walked away, calling the discussions "sickening."

Then, two weeks ago, Kim was shown riding a white horse in the snow on the sacred Mount Paektu, with state media saying he was planning a "great operation."

Last week, Kim ordered the removal of South Korean facilities at a shuttered joint tourist project, and he has since rebuffed Seoul's attempt to hold talks on the issue.

On Sunday, Pyongyang repeated its frustration with what it calls a "crafty and vicious" attempt by the United States to isolate and stifle the country through sanctions. The statement said the United States is seriously mistaken if it thinks it can keep the situation quiet through the end of the year by exploiting the "close personal relations" between President Trump and Kim.

More fiery rhetoric emerged from state media on Tuesday, this time attributed to leading official Choe Ryong Hae at an earlier speech to a summit of the Nonaligned Movement in Azerbaijan.

"Now the situation on the Korean Peninsula is at a critical crossroads of either moving toward a durable peace along with the trend of detente or facing again a touch-and-go crisis," Choe said.

The missile test may have been partly aimed at underlining the point.

"It is consistent with hardening signals from state media since the breakdown of the Stockholm talks and Kim's climb up Mount Paektu," said Rachel Minyoung Lee, a senior analyst at NK News, a Seoul-based website specializing in North Korea news and analysis.

Some experts believe that the fire and fury coming from Pyongyang is an attempt to drive a hard bargain with Trump, in the hope he offers North Korea a favorable deal in return for not disrupting his reelection campaign with more serious long-range missile tests.

This article was written by Simon Denyer, a reporter for The Washington Post. The Washington Post's Min Joo Kim in Seoul contributed to this report.