- In recent speeches, Kim has vowed to expand his nuclear weapons programme.
- The South Korean president also attempted to open the door for the new US administration by stating that the fate of their relations is in Washington’s hands.
- North has a long history of using provocative weapons tests to accomplish its goals in a carefully calibrated manner.
North Korea launched its first ballistic missiles since President Joe Biden took office on Thursday, bolstering its military capability and the pressure on the United States as nuclear talks stall. The launches, according to Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, threaten “peace and security in Japan and the region,” and Tokyo will work closely with Washington and Seoul on the North’s testing activities.
The missiles were launched at about 7:06 a.m. and 7:25 a.m. and before landing in the sea, it flew 450 kilometres (279 miles) with an apogee of 60 kilometres (37 miles) from an area on the North’s eastern coast, according to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Capt. Mike Kafka, a spokesperson for the US Indo-Pacific Command, said the US military was aware of the missiles and was closely monitoring the situation while coordinating with allies.
Another senior US official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to share military observations, confirmed the South Korean military’s findings, saying initial assessments indicate the North launched two short-range ballistic missiles. “This activity emphasises North Korea’s illicit arms program’s threat to its neighbours and the international community,” Kafka said.
The launches came a day after US and South Korean officials said the North launched short-range projectiles into its western sea over the weekend, which they assumed were cruise missiles.
North Korea has a tradition of putting new US administrations to the test by launching missiles and other provocations in an attempt to get the Americans back to the negotiating table. Nonetheless, compared to the nuclear and intercontinental missile tests in 2017, which sparked war fears before the North turned to diplomacy with the Trump administration in 2018, Thursday’s launches were a calculated provocation.
According to analysts, the North will gradually raise its military shows in order to increase its negotiating power as it seeks to resume stalled talks aimed at using nuclear weapons for desperately needed economic benefits. Before the Biden administration completes its policy review on North Korea in the coming weeks, it’s unclear how it will react.
Negotiations over the North’s nuclear programme stalled after Kim Jong Un’s second summit with President Donald Trump in February 2019, when the Americans turned down North Korean requests for substantial sanctions relief in return for a partial surrender of nuclear weapons.
While analysts believe the North has moved forward with its nuclear and long-range missile programmes since Trump’s first meeting with Kim in 2018, the North has not conducted any nuclear or long-range missile tests.
While analysts believe the North has moved forward with its nuclear and long-range missile programmes since Trump’s first meeting with Kim in 2018, the North has not conducted any nuclear or long-range missile tests since that time.
During the suspension of nuclear and long-range tests, the North proceeded to test short- and medium-range missiles, increasing its ability to strike targets in South Korea and Japan, including US bases there.
North Korea has so far brushed aside the Biden administration’s outreach efforts, claiming that it will not participate in substantive talks until Washington changes its “hostile” policies.
Kim Yo-jong, Kim’s powerful sister, chastised the US last week for a new round of joint military drills with South Korea that ended earlier this month. She called the exercises an invasion rehearsal and warned Washington that if it wants to “sleep in peace” for the next four years, it must “refrain from making a stink.”
South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong was scheduled to meet with visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Seoul just hours after Thursday’s launches to address North Korea and other regional issues. The presidential office of South Korea has announced that an emergency meeting of the National Security Council will be held to discuss the launches.
The North’s short-range missile tests on Sunday, according to South Korea’s Defence Ministry, were the North’s first since April 2020. “There’s no new wrinkle in what they did,” President Joe Biden told reporters of the launches.
In recent speeches, Kim has pledged to improve his nuclear weapons programme, but he has also tried to open the door for the new US administration by saying that the fate of their ties is in Washington’s hands.
North Korea’s nuclear aspirations and human rights record were sharply criticised by Antony Blinken, US Secretary of State during a visit to Seoul last week and China was advised to use its “tremendous influence” to convince the North Korea to denuclearize.