Photo: Canadian Press
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 for its continued test launches.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the missiles came from an inland area in western North Pyongan province.
Japan’s prime minister’s office and defense ministry also traced the launch, while its coast guard urged the ships to pay attention to falling objects.
Hours earlier, North Korea issued a statement rebuking the Biden administration for imposing new sanctions on its missile tests and warned that stronger and more explicit action would be taken if Washington maintains its “confrontational stance”. .
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. Washington also said it would seek new UN sanctions.
The last test-launch of a hypersonic missile on Tuesday – the second in weeks – 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.
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.”
In a statement carried by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency, an unnamed foreign ministry spokesman on Friday defended the 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 the North’s development of the new missile 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 that Kim unveiled early last year 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.”