North Korea has fired its first ballistic missiles in a year, Japan’s defense ministry confirmed – a measure likely to heighten tensions after firing its first cruise missiles last weekend.
The two short-range ballistic missiles were launched from North Korea on Wednesday (Thursday, local time) – fired from Wonsan on North Korea’s east coast overlooking the Sea of Japan.
The Defense Department reported the news in the US on Wednesday evening, saying the missiles had reportedly flew about 250 miles before hitting waters off North Korea’s east coast.
UN Security Council resolutions prohibit North Korea from participating in ballistic activities, but not cruise missile tests. Cruise missiles fly at a lower altitude and slower than ballistic missiles, making them easier to intercept, but they are still considered more accurate.
Pyongyang fired two short-range missiles on Sunday, just days after Kim Jong Un’s sister threatened the United States and South Korea for holding joint military exercises.
Sunday’s missile tests were confirmed by two senior officials from the Biden administration.
Kim Jong-un, leader of North Korea, is seen on March 23. His country fired a missile on Thursday
TV screens show newscasts on the Yongsan electronics market in Seoul on Thursday
A fake North Korean Scud-B missile, center right, and South Korean missiles in the Seoul Museum
They are because North Korea has ignored offers from the new government to resume negotiations, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week pressed China to use its ‘enormous influence’ to convince North Korea to abandon its nuclear program.
However, the officials tried to downplay the importance of the missile tests, noting that they are not covered by UN Security Council resolutions designed to stop North Korea from pursuing a nuclear program.
Biden himself told reporters that the missile tests were not a provocation.
“There’s no new wrinkle in what they did,” he said, laughing as he walked away.
Joe Biden, asked about Sunday’s test by North Korea, said it was business as usual
CNN’s sources reported that the two cruise missile launches on Sunday posed a ‘low-end’ threat
The South Korean military said in a statement on Wednesday that it had detected two suspected cruise missile launches by North Korea on Sunday morning.
It said the launches were made off North Korea’s west coast and said South Korea is analyzing them.
The statement said South Korea is closely monitoring North Korean missile activity in conjunction with the United States, but noted that it is not publishing all of its information on North Korea.
South Korean politician Ha Tae-keung said in a Facebook post that he was told by agencies of the Seoul spy agency that the North fired two cruise missiles from the western seaport of Nampo at around 6:36 AM on Sunday.
Ha, an executive secretary of the National Assembly Intelligence Committee who regularly receives closed-door briefings from the spy agency, said he was told the U.S. and South Korean military had spotted the launches but agreed not to publicize them. to make.
The Biden administration was open about its desire to involve the North in the negotiations, even as the regime rejected calls for the two nations to talk.
In North Korea’s initial remarks to the Biden administration, North Korean leader Kim’s powerful sister earlier this month warned the United States not to “ cause a stench ” if they want to “ sleep in peace ” for the next four years.
Kim Yo Jong’s statement was issued when Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin arrived in Asia to talk to US allies Japan and South Korea about North Korea and other regional issues.
South Korea’s Defense Ministry said Sunday’s launches were North Korea’s first missile fires since April 2020.
US-North Korea relations, once hailed as potentially promising after President Donald Trump’s three meetings with Kim, have been tense for over a year and have had no substantive contact.
The last face-to-face talks between senior officials of the two countries took place in Sweden in October 2019, and efforts by the Biden government to resume dialogue have been rejected since February.
Since Trump’s first meeting with Kim in Singapore in 2018, the North has not conducted nuclear tests or long-range missile tests, although analysts believe they have continued their programs for both. And the North has not given up short- and medium-range missile testing.
North Korean officials have had no contact with US government officials for over a year, spread across two administrations, one of the senior government officials noted.
Biden government officials consulted with Trump government officials who took part in the Singapore talks, as well as a second Kim and Trump meeting in February 2019.
Some Trump officials speculated in their conversations with the Biden team that the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and a broader reconsideration of involvement with the United States could explain the North’s radio silence, an official said.
Kim is in the midst of the worst crisis of his nine-year reign as the already troubled economy has been hit by pandemic-related border closures that have sharply reduced the north’s foreign trade.
The North also faced a wave of natural disasters last summer, not to mention ongoing US-led sanctions.
But Biden government officials added that the Biden administration does not view the weekend’s missile tests as closing the door on such talks.
National security adviser Jake Sullivan will also meet with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts next week for talks on the way forward with North Korea.