Monday, 18 October, 2021


North Korea Test Fires Missiles In First Overt Challenge To Biden Administration

North Korea fired off 2 short-range missiles over weekend: Official North Korea fires off short-range missiles following warning from Kim Jong-un's sister
Melba Vasquez | 24 March, 2021, 08:53

One US official told CNN that North Korea had launched short-range projectiles, possibly artillery or cruise missiles, not ballistic missiles - a key distinction that underscores the Biden administration's view that it does not qualify as a serious breach and will not prevent the US from pursuing diplomacy with Pyongyang.

The test had been widely expected, as officials and experts have long anticipated that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would attempt to send a message to the Biden administration about the country's importance in the region. The top U.S. envoy and defense chief visited Korea and Japan the previous week to discuss its North Korea policy.

North Korea has test-fired two short-range missiles over the weekend, U.S. officials say, in what one expert suggested was a relatively mild move as Pyongyang lobbies for a relaxation of sanctions over its nuclear and missile programs.

China is looking to boost ties with North Korea and Russian Federation following a contentious meeting with USA officials in Alaska last week. They say the abductions of Japanese nationals by Pyongyang and Tokyo-Seoul relations are among the issues that are likely to be discussed during the talks with Japan.

It's the first round of missile tests since Biden took office, but officials downplayed the significance.

Kim Yo Jong's statement was issued as Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin arrived in Asia to talk with USA allies Japan and South Korea about North Korea and other regional issues.

North Korea is said to have fired non-ballistic cruise missiles, which do not flout UN Security Council resolutions, over the weekend.

North Korea slammed European Union (EU) human rights sanctions imposed against its senior officials this week as a "despicable political provocation" and the result of "a psychotic way of thinking".

According to ABC News, North Korea also "recently complained publicly about a new round of American and South Korean military exercises taking place in South Korea".

While Blinken and Austin were in Seoul on March 18, North Korean first vice foreign minister Choe Son Hui accused the United States of a "lunatic theory of "threat from North Korea" and groundless rhetoric about 'complete denuclearization'".

The Biden administration has been having extensive consultations with former Trump administration officials "at the highest levels" from the White House and State Department on North Korea, the senior official said.

South Korea's Defense Ministry said Sunday's launches were North Korea's first missile firings since April 2020.

"North Korea stuck to lesser missiles because of China and Russian Federation as well, since it needs their backing more than ever", said Cheong Seong-chang, director of the Center for North Korean Studies at the Sejong Institute.

China had advocated a "two-track approach" to the issue, whereby the US would offer security guarantees to North Korea in exchange for Pyongyang abandoning its nuclear weapons programs.

The Biden administration has been in close and frequent contact with Japan and South Korea through various channels from the outset, a sign of the alliances' importance to Washington.

A top North Korean diplomat last week said the country would never answer USA diplomatic overtures until Washington dropped hostile policies and called for sanctions relief.

Since Mr Trump's first meeting with Mr Kim in Singapore in 2018, the North has not conducted nuclear or long-range missile tests, although analysts believe they have pressed ahead with their programs on both.

"We thought that some of the efforts that were taken previously to turn off necessary exercises and the like were actually antithetical" to keeping peace and stability on the Korean peninsula, the official said.

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