North Korea on Friday fired two short-range ballistic missiles in its third launch this month, South Korean officials said, in apparent retaliation for new sanctions imposed by the Biden administration over its ongoing test launches.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the missiles came from an inland region of Northwestern Pyongan Province.
The Japanese Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of Defense also monitored the launch, while the Coast Guard urged ships to watch out for falling objects.
Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said that “North Korea’s continued military activity, including its frequent launches of ballistic missiles, poses threats to peace and security in Japan and the region, and is a serious concern for the entire international community.”
Hours earlier, North Korea issued a statement reprimanding the Biden administration for imposing new sanctions on its missile tests and warning of stronger and more visible action if Washington maintains a “confrontational stance.”
The sanctions targeted five North Koreans over their role in procuring equipment and technology for North Korea’s missile programs in its response to North Korea’s missile test this week. Washington also said it would seek new UN sanctions.
Leader Kim Jong Un oversaw the previous test launch of a hypersonic missile on Tuesday – the second in a week – which he said would greatly increase his country’s nuclear “war deterrence”.
North Korea is ramping up its testing of new nuclear-capable missiles designed to defeat the region’s missile defenses. Some experts say Kim is returning to a tried-and-true method of pressuring the world with missiles and outrageous threats before offering negotiations aimed at extracting concessions.
After an unusually provocative round of nuclear and long-range missile tests in 2017 that demonstrated North Korea’s pursuit of an arsenal that could target the American homeland, Kim began diplomacy with former President Donald Trump in 2018 in an effort to leverage his nuclear weapons for economic benefits. .
But negotiations were derailed after Kim’s second summit with Trump in 2019, when the Americans rejected his demands for major sanctions relief in exchange for a partial waiver of North Korea’s nuclear capabilities.
Since then, Kim has vowed to expand his nuclear weapons arsenal which he clearly sees as the strongest guarantee of survival, despite the country’s economy suffering major setbacks after it closed its borders during the pandemic as well as ongoing US-led sanctions.
His government has so far rejected the Biden administration’s open offer to resume talks, saying that Washington should drop its “hostile policy” first – a term Pyongyang primarily uses to describe joint US-South Korea sanctions and military exercises.
North Korea appears to be signaling that it will not be ignored and will respond to pressure with pressure, said Leif Eric Easley, a professor at the University of Iowa in Seoul.
“North Korea is trying to set a trap for the Biden administration,” Easley said. It has queued up the missiles it wanted to test anyway and is responding to US pressure with additional provocations in an attempt to extort concessions.
In a statement carried by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency, an unidentified foreign ministry spokesman on Friday defended the missile launch as a valid exercise in self-defense.
The spokesman said that the new sanctions confirm the US hostile intent aimed at “isolating and strangling” the North. The spokesman accused Washington of sticking to the “gangster” position, saying that North Korea’s development of the new missile is part of its efforts to modernize its army and does not target any specific country and does not threaten the security of its neighbors.
Hypersonic weapons, which fly at more than Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound, can pose a critical challenge to missile defenses due to their speed and maneuverability.
These weapons were on the wish list of advanced military assets that Kim revealed early last year, along with multiple warhead missiles, spy satellites, long-range solid-fuel missiles and submarine-launched nuclear missiles.
However, experts say North Korea will need years and more successful and longer-range testing before obtaining a reliable hypersonic system.
In an interview with MSNBC, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken called North Korea’s latest tests “deeply destabilizing” and said the United States is deeply engaged with the United Nations and with key partners, including allies South Korea and Japan, on the response.
I think some of this is North Korea’s attempt to get attention. I’ve done that in the past. “You’ll probably keep doing that,” Blinken said. “But we are very focused with allies and partners in making sure that we are properly defended and that there are repercussions and consequences for these actions by North Korea.”