by Kim Tong-hyung
Seoul, South Korea (AP) — North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles on Friday in its third weapons launch this month, South Korean officials said, in an apparent retaliation for new sanctions imposed by the Biden administration. Its continuous testing started.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the missiles were fired 11 minutes from an inland area in western North Pyongan province, where North Korea is known to operate major missile bases and has frequent test launches in recent years. has done.
The military said the missiles flew 430 kilometers (267 mi) cross-country at a maximum altitude of 36 kilometers (22 mi) before landing at sea.
Japan’s Coast Guard urged ships to pay attention to falling objects, but Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said there were no reports of damage to ships or aircraft.
Hours earlier, North Korea issued a statement rebuking the Biden administration for imposing new sanctions on its previous missile tests and warned of stronger and more pronounced action if Washington maintains its “confrontational stance”. Will go
Treasury Department sanctions this week targeted five North Koreans over their role in obtaining equipment and technology for the North’s missile programs in response to the North’s missile tests. The State Department ordered sanctions against another North Korean, a Russian man and a Russian company for their widespread support of North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction activities.
The Biden administration also announced it would seek UN sanctions, and a senior official at the US mission to the UN said Friday that Washington would seek targeted measures against five individuals linked to North Korea’s weapons development. and is working with its partners on additional designations.
The official, who was not authorized to speak publicly, said without preconditions for North Korea to talk about ways to denuclearize the Korean peninsula a few months ago and the possibility of US humanitarian aid. There has been no reaction to the US offer to sit. The official said the only response from Pyongyang is the renewal of the missile tests, which is “very unstable, dangerous and most importantly in violation of UN Security Council resolutions.”
Tuesday’s test-launch of a hypersonic missile – the second in a week – was overseen by leader Kim Jong Un, who said it would greatly increase his country’s nuclear “war deterrent”.
North Korea is accelerating testing of new, potentially nuclear-capable missiles designed to erode missile defenses in the region. Some experts say Kim is going back to a tried-and-tested technique of pressurizing the world with missile launches and outrageous threats, before offering talks to seek concessions.
After an unusually provocative run in nuclear and long-range missile tests in 2017 that demonstrated the North’s search for an arsenal targeting the American homeland, Kim has attempted to leverage his nuclear arsenal for economic gain. Started diplomacy with former President Donald Trump in 2018. ,
But talks were derailed after Kim’s second summit with Trump in 2019, when Americans rejected his demands for major sanctions relief in exchange for a partial surrender of the North’s nuclear capabilities.
Kim has since pledged to further expand a nuclear arsenal, which he clearly sees as his strongest guarantee of survival, despite the country’s economy being battered by the pandemic as well as the continued US-led There were major setbacks after it closed its borders during the restrictions.
His government has so far rejected the Biden administration’s open-ended offer to restart talks, saying Washington must first abandon its “hostile policy” – a term Pyongyang mainly uses on sanctions. and uses to describe joint US-South Korea military exercises.
South Korea’s presidential office said National Security Director Suh Hoon and other senior officials convened an emergency National Security Council meeting, expressed “deep regret” over the continued launch and urged Pyongyang to re-commit to talks.
Professor Leif-Eric Easley of Iwa University in Seoul said North Korea is signaling it will not be ignored and will respond to pressure with pressure.
“North Korea is trying to set a trap for the Biden administration,” Isley said. “It has queued up missiles that it wants to test anyway and is responding to US pressure with additional provocation in an effort to make concessions.”
Professor Kim Dong-yub of the Seoul University of the North said the timing of the launch and detection of several missiles showed that North Korea displayed weapons that were already operational, and not some of its others under development. instead of missiles, as he sought to signal to Washington. Korean Studies.
He said North Korea may have tested a solid-fuel missile apparently modeled after Russia’s Iskander Mobile Ballistic System, or another short-range weapon that looks similar to the US MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System. .
Both missiles, which have been tested since North 2019, are designed to maneuver and fly on a low approach, potentially improving the chances of evading and defeating missile defense systems.
In a statement carried by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency, an unnamed foreign ministry spokesman on Friday defended the North’s past launches as an appropriate exercise of self-defense.
The spokesman said the new sanctions underscore a hostile US intention to “isolate and suppress” the North. The spokesman accused Washington of maintaining a “gangster-like” stance, saying North Korea’s development of hypersonic missiles is part of efforts to modernize its military and does not target any specific country or threaten the security of its neighbors. Not there.
Hypersonic weapons, which fly at speeds greater than Mach 5 or more than five times the speed of sound, can pose a significant challenge to missile defense because of their speed and maneuverability.
Such weapons were on the wish-list of sophisticated military assets Kim Jong Un unveiled early last year along with multi-warhead missiles, spy satellites, solid-fuel long-range missiles and submarine-launched nuclear missiles .
Still, experts say North Korea will need years and more successful and long-range tests before it can achieve a reliable hypersonic system.
In an interview with MSNBC, Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the North’s latest tests “profoundly destabilizing” and said the United States engaged deeply on the response with key partners at the United Nations and including allies South Korea and Japan. happened.
“I think some of this is what North Korea is trying to get attention. It has been done in the past. It will probably continue to do so,” Blinken said. “But we are very focused with allies and partners to make sure that they and we are defending properly and that these actions by North Korea have consequences.”
Associated Press writers Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo and Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.