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North Korea missile test sparks concern, US officials warn ‘we must choose diplomacy’

North Korea carried out a third missile launch in two weeks, marking the highest number of weapons testing activities since 2020 and raising concern among U.S. officials over escalating tensions in the region.

The test of two short-range ballistic missiles marks North Korea’s third launch this month in apparent retaliation for new sanctions imposed by the Biden administration for its continued test launches.

The previous test launch of a hypersonic missile on Tuesday – the second in a week – was overseen by leader Kim Jong Un, who said it would significantly increase his country’s nuclear “war deterrent”.

This photo provided by the North Korean government shows what it says about a test launch of a hypersonic missile on January 11, 2022 in North Korea. Independent journalists were not allowed to cover the event depicted in this image released by the North Korean government. The content of this image is as supplied and cannot be independently verified. The Korean language watermark on the image provided by the source reads: “KCNA”, which is short for Korean Central News Agency.
(Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

United States Indo-Pacific Command issued a declaration say he is “aware of the ballistic missile launch” and remains in close contact with “allies and partners”.

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“While we have assessed that this event does not pose an immediate threat to U.S. personnel or territory, or to our allies, the launch of the missile highlights the destabilizing impact of the DPRK’s illicit weapons program,” adds the press release.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby speaks during a press conference at the Pentagon.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby speaks during a press conference at the Pentagon.
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Defense Ministry press secretary John Kirby said officials were not yet ready to say whether the test was hypersonic in nature.

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A senior USUN official told reporters that the United States on Wednesday proposed that the 1718 Committee, which deals with North Korea sanctions, designate five people for sanctions following recent designations from the Treasury and the States. The individuals have ties to North Korea’s weapons program, having helped develop or acquire materials and technologies.

Trump and Kim shake hands during their 2019 meeting.

Trump and Kim shake hands during their 2019 meeting.
(AP/KCNA)

The official said the United States was ready to engage in and support serious and sustained diplomacy, but that North Korea had to “choose” diplomacy and dialogue over its “illegal and threatening” weapons program.

Kirby echoed that sentiment, telling reporters that Pyongyang has shown “no sign of interest in doing this.”

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“I think we’ve made it clear that we’re ready to sit down and talk about these issues with North Korea,” Kirby said. “Our priority is – we already have security commitments on the peninsula, and our job here at DOD is to ensure that we are able to meet those commitments to the best of our abilities.”

North Korea’s peak in activity came in March 2020 when it conducted nine missile tests – the most on record in a month, the Heritage Foundation told Fox News.

Kim had begun diplomatic talks with former President Donald Trump in 2018 in a bid to leverage his nuclear weapons for economic benefits, but talks broke down in 2019 after the US rejected his demands for relief Sanctions.

The Biden administration says the United States remains deeply engaged with its allies, South Korea and Japan, on appropriate responses to weapons testing.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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