North Korea fires ballistic missiles in message to Biden administration – National

North Korea fires ballistic missiles in message to Biden administration - National

North Korea has tested its first ballistic missiles since President Joe Biden took office on Thursday, as it expands its military capabilities and increases pressure on Washington as nuclear talks remain at a standstill.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said the launches threatened “peace and security in Japan and the region” and that Tokyo would coordinate closely with Washington and Seoul on northern testing activities.

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South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the missiles were fired around 7:06 am and 7:25 am from an area of ​​the north east coast and flew 450 kilometers (279 miles) at a peak of 60 kilometers ( 37 miles) before landing. in the sea.

U.S. Indo-Pacific Command spokesman Captain Mike Kafka said the U.S. military is aware of the missiles and is monitoring the situation while consulting closely with its allies.

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Another senior US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the military sightings, matched information from the South Korean military, saying early assessments suggest the North fired two ballistic missiles at short range.

“This activity highlights the threat that North Korea’s illicit weapons program poses to its neighbors and the international community,” Kafka said.

The launches came a day after US and South Korean officials said the North fired short-range weapons believed to be cruise missiles into its western sea over the weekend.

North Korea is used to testing new US administrations with missile launches and other provocations aimed at forcing Americans back to the negotiating table.

Still, Thursday’s launches were a measured provocation to nuclear and intercontinental missile testing in 2017 that inspired fears of war before the North moved to diplomacy with the Trump administration in 2018.

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Analysts say the North would gradually increase its displays of weapons to increase its bargaining power as it turns to return to stalled talks aimed at leveraging nuclear weapons for much-needed economic benefits.

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It is unclear how the Biden administration would react until it concludes its review of the North Korea policy in the coming weeks.

Negotiations over the North’s nuclear program collapsed after the collapse of Kim Jong Un’s second summit with President Donald Trump in February 2019, when the Americans rejected North Korean demands for major sanctions relief in exchange for a partial surrender of their nuclear capacities.

Since Trump’s first meeting with Kim in 2018, the North has not carried out nuclear or long-range missile tests, although analysts believe they have continued their programs on both.

The North continued testing short- and medium-range missiles during its suspension of nuclear and long-range tests, increasing its ability to strike targets in South Korea and Japan, including US bases there.

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North Korea has so far ignored the Biden administration’s efforts to reach out, saying it will not engage in meaningful talks unless Washington abandons its “hostile” policy.

Kim’s powerful sister last week berated the United States for its latest round of combined military exercises with South Korea that ended earlier this month, describing the exercises as a rehearsal of invasion and has warned Washington to “refrain from causing a stench” if it is to “sleep in peace” for the next four years.

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Just hours after Thursday’s launches, South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong was due to meet with visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Seoul for talks on North Korea and others regional issues. South Korea’s presidential office has said it will hold an emergency National Security Council meeting to discuss the launches.

South Korea’s Defense Ministry said the North’s short-range tests on Sunday were its first missile hits since April 2020. President Joe Biden played down those launches, telling reporters: “There is no new wrinkle in what they did. “

While Kim has pledged to step up his nuclear weapons program in his recent speeches, he also tried to give the new US administration an opening by saying that the fate of their relationship depends on Washington.

During his visit to Seoul last week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken severely criticized North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and human rights record and urged China to use its “immense influence. To convince the North to denuclearize.


Associated Press editors Yuri Kageyama and Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo and Aamer Madhani and Lolita Baldor in Washington contributed to this report.

© 2021 The Canadian Press


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