China has again called for dialogue to resolve the North Korean nuclear crisis after Pyongyang fired two short-range missiles on Thursday. Diplomatic observers said the launches were a protest against planned military exercises between the United States and South Korea. Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the United States and North Korea should resume negotiations as soon as possible. “Relevant parties should treasure the hard-won chances for dialogue and alleviating tensions. They should express sincerity, and contribute to resolving the issue through political means and dialogue,” Hua said. A South Korean defence official said the first projectile was launched from near North Korea’s eastern coastal town of Wonsan. It flew 430km (267 miles), reaching an altitude of about 50km. The second “appeared to have flown further”, the official said, citing US data. Both “appear to have landed in waters in the East Sea”, the official said, using the South Korean name for the Sea of Japan. South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff later said the second missile flew about 690km, and also reaching an altitude of about 50km. It added that at least one of the two was likely to have been a “new type of missile”. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un also inspected a new submarine that could potentially launch a ballistic missile, Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency reported on Tuesday. Diplomatic observers said the North’s latest missile launches showed it was protesting against a planned military exercise between US and South Korea. Pyongyang had said its nuclear talks with Washington would be affected if the US and the South went ahead with the exercise next month. “South Korea has recently confirmed that the planned exercise for next month would proceed, but North Korea claimed that [US President] Donald Trump promised to stop such exercises when he met Kim,” Zhao Tong, a fellow in Carnegie’s Nuclear Policy Programme, based at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Centre for Global Policy in Beijing, said. “A second goal [for North Korea] would be to press the United States to further soften its position on the denuclearisation issue. [Kim] wants more reciprocal concessions from Washington, especially measures to start removing some economic sanctions. “The missile launches serve the goal of putting more pressure on Washington and pushing it to consider these more substantive concessions that [North Korea] really wants.” Harry Kazianis, senior director of Korean Studies at Washington-based think tank Centre for National Interest, said: “North Korea is clearly upset that the US and South Korea are conducting joint military exercises. Because of this, Pyongyang has refused to set a date for working-level talks with Washington, won’t accept food aid from Seoul and is now once again testing weapons systems that will surely increase tensions. “We should not be shocked by this move and, in fact, we should have seen it coming.” The missile tests came after North Korea stepped up its diplomatic engagement. Last month, Kim met Trump in the inter-Korean border village of Panmunjom, vowing to work towards denuclearisation. After the meeting, Trump said teams from the US and North Korea would start meetings on Pyongyang’s nuclear programme, but said he was in no rush to agree a deal on the issue. He also described his meeting with Kim as “legendary”. Before Kim’s meeting with Trump, Chinese President Xi Jinping made his first state visit to Pyongyang, during which he pledged to provide support for the legitimate needs of the regime. China has previously called on North Korea to avoid provocation and has endorsed United Nations sanctions against the regime. But its economic engagement with Pyongyang has increased, with total trade with North Korea in the first half of this year jumping 14 per cent year on year to US$1.25 billion. There has yet to be an official response from Beijing to the missile launches. Zhao said China was unlikely to take a tough stand against Pyongyang this time. “China did not react very strongly against [North Korea] after the previous missile tests in May,” he said. “I do not expect it to react particularly strongly this time. The steady improvement of relations with [North Korea] is in process and the short-range missile tests do not appear to affect it.” In May, North Korea launched two projectiles from its western province of North Pyongan, which flew around 420km and 270km.