N. Korea launches several missiles in response to US sanctions – World News


North Korea on Friday fired two short-range ballistic missiles in its third arms launch this month, South Korean officials said, in an apparent retaliation for new sanctions imposed by the Biden administration for its continued test launches.

South Korea’s joint chief of staff said the missiles came from an interior area in western northern Pyongan province.

Japan’s Prime Minister’s Office and Ministry of Defense also spotted the launch, while its Coast Guard urged vessels to be alerted to falling objects.

Hours earlier, North Korea issued a statement criticizing the Biden administration for imposing new sanctions on its missile tests and warning of stronger and more explicit action if Washington maintains its “confrontational stance.”

The sanctions were aimed at five North Koreans over their roles in providing equipment and technology for the Nordic missile programs in response to the Nordic missile test this week. Washington also said it would seek new UN sanctions.

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

North Korea has stepped up testing of new, potentially nuclear-capable missiles designed to overwhelm missile defenses in the region. Some experts say Kim goes back to a proven technique of pushing the world with missile launches and outrageous threats before offering negotiations with the aim of extracting concessions.

After an unusually provocative race in nuclear and long-range missile tests in 2017 that demonstrated the Nordic region’s search for an arsenal that could target the US homeland, Kim began diplomacy with former President Donald Trump in 2018 in an attempt to exploit his nuclear weapons for economic benefit.

But negotiations derailed after Kim’s second summit with Trump in 2019, when the Americans rejected his demand for greater sanctions in exchange for a partial surrender of the Nordic nuclear capabilities.

Kim has since pledged to further expand a nuclear arsenal, which he clearly sees as his strongest guarantee of survival, despite the country’s economy suffering major setbacks after closing its borders during the pandemic as well as persistent US-led sanctions.

His government has so far rejected the Biden administration’s open offer to resume negotiations, saying Washington must first abandon its “hostile policy” – a term that Pyongyang mainly uses to describe sanctions and joint US-South Korean military exercises.

Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, said North Korea appears to be signaling that it will not be ignored and will respond to pressure with pressure.

“North Korea is trying to set a trap for the Biden administration,” Easley said. “It has lined up missiles that it still wants to test, and it is responding to US pressure with further provocations in an attempt to blackmail concessions.”

In a statement from North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency, an unidentified Foreign Ministry spokesman on Friday defended the launches as a fair exercise in self-defense.

The spokesman said the new sanctions underscore hostile US intent with the aim of “isolating and suffocating” the Nordic region. The spokesman accused Washington of maintaining a “gangster-like” stance, saying the Nordic development of the new missile is part of its efforts to modernize its military and is not targeting any specific country or threatening the security of its neighbors.

Hypersonic weapons flying at speeds above Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound, can pose a crucial challenge to missile defense because of their speed and maneuverability.

Such weapons were on a wish list of sophisticated military assets, which Kim unveiled early last year along with multi-explosive missiles, spy satellites, long-range solid-fuel missiles and submarine-firing nuclear missiles.

Still, experts say North Korea would need years and more successful and longer-range tests before acquiring a credible hypersonic system.

In an interview with MSNBC, Foreign Minister Antony Blinken called the Nordic region’s recent tests “deeply destabilizing” and said the United States was deeply committed to the UN and to key partners, including allies South Korea and Japan, in a response.

“I think some of this is North Korea trying to get attention. This has been done before. It will probably continue to do so, “said Blinken. “But we are very focused with allies and partners in ensuring that they and we are properly defended and that there are consequences, consequences for these actions on the part of North Korea.”

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