North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles on Friday in its third weapons launch this month, South Korean officials said, in apparent retaliation for new sanctions imposed by the Biden administration for its fire. continuous testing.
South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said the missiles came from an interior area in western North Pyongan Province.
The Japanese Prime Minister’s Office and the Defense Ministry also detected the launch, while its coastguard urged ships to be careful of falling objects.
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Hours earlier, North Korea issued a statement berating the Biden administration for imposing new sanctions for its missile testing and warning of stronger and more explicit action if Washington maintains its “confrontational stance” .
The sanctions targeted five North Koreans for their role in securing equipment and technology for North Korean missile programs in response to the North Korean missile test this week. Washington has also said it will seek further UN sanctions.
The previous test launch of a hypersonic missile on Tuesday – the second per week – was overseen by leader Kim Jong Un, who said it would greatly increase his country’s nuclear “war deterrence”.
North Korea has stepped up testing of new potentially nuclear-capable missiles designed to overwhelm missile defenses in the region. Some pundits say Kim is returning to a proven technique of pressuring the world with missile launches and outrageous threats before offering negotiations to secure concessions.
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Following an unusually provocative series of nuclear and long-range missile tests in 2017 that demonstrated the North’s pursuit of an arsenal that could target the American homeland, Kim began diplomacy with the former president. Donald Trump in 2018 with the aim of leveraging his nuclear weapons for economic benefits. .
But negotiations 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 surrender of the North’s nuclear capabilities.
Kim has since pledged to further expand a nuclear arsenal that he clearly sees as his strongest guarantee of survival, despite the country’s economy having suffered major setbacks after closing its borders during the pandemic as well as persistent sanctions led by the United States.
His government has so far rejected the Biden administration’s unlimited offer to resume talks, saying Washington must first abandon its “hostile policies” – a term Pyongyang uses primarily to describe sanctions and military exercises Korean-American spouses.
Leif-Eric Easley, professor at Ewha University in Seoul, said North Korea appears to signal that it will not be ignored and that it will respond to pressure with pressure.
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“North Korea is trying to set a trap for the Biden administration,” Easley said. “He’s queued up missiles he wants to test anyway and is responding to US pressure with additional provocations in an attempt to extort concessions.”
In a statement released by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency, an unidentified Foreign Ministry spokesperson on Friday defended the launches as a legitimate exercise in self-defense.
The spokesman said the new sanctions underscore the United States’ hostile intention to “isolate and suffocate” the North. The spokesman accused Washington of maintaining a “gangster” position, saying the northern development of the new missile is part of its efforts to modernize its military and does not target any particular country or threaten the security of its neighbors. .
Hypersonic weapons, which fly at speeds above Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound, could pose a critical challenge to missile defenses due to their speed and maneuverability.
Such weapons were on a wishlist of sophisticated military assets that Kim unveiled early last year, as well as multi-warhead missiles, spy satellites, long-range solid-fuel missiles, and nuclear missiles. launched by submarine.
Still, experts say North Korea would need years and more successful, longer-range tests before acquiring a credible hypersonic system.
In an interview with MSNBC, Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the latest tests in the North “deeply unsettling” and said the United States was deeply engaged at the UN and with key partners, including allies of the United States. South Korea and Japan, on a response.
“I think it’s part of North Korea that is trying to get attention. It’s what it has done in the past. It will probably continue to do so,” Blinken said. “But we are very focused with our allies and partners to make sure that they and we are properly defended and that there are repercussions, consequences for these actions by North Korea.”
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