Officials in South Korea reported North Korea launched two short-range ballistic missiles on Friday, the third such launch this month, in apparent retaliation for new penalties imposed by the Biden administration for the country’s continued missile tests.
The missiles were fired from an interior location in western North Pyongan province, according to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The launch was also detected by Japan’s Prime Minister’s Office and Defense Ministry, and the country’s coast guard advised ships to be aware of falling items.
North Korea had released a statement chastising the Biden administration for implementing more sanctions in response to its missile launches, warning that if Washington maintains its “confrontational approach,” it will take tougher and more concrete measures.
In reaction to the North’s missile launch this week, the sanctions targeted five North Koreans for their roles in procuring equipment and technology for the North’s missile programs. Washington also stated that further UN sanctions will be sought.
Leader Kim Jong Un oversaw the prior test flight of a hypersonic missile on Tuesday, the second in a week, and stated it would considerably improve his country’s nuclear “war deterrence.”
North Korea has been conducting further tests of new, potentially nuclear-capable missiles aimed at overwhelming regional missile defenses. Some observers believe Kim is reverting to a tried-and-true tactic of threatening the world with missile launches and absurd threats before providing concession-seeking discussions.
Following an unusually provocative run of nuclear and long-range missile tests in 2017, which demonstrated the North’s pursuit of an arsenal capable of striking the American homeland, Kim began diplomacy with former President Donald Trump in 2018 in the hopes of leveraging his nuclear weapons for economic gain.
The talks fell apart following Kim’s second meeting with Trump in 2019, when the Americans turned down his requests for massive sanctions relief in exchange for a partial surrender of the North’s nuclear weapons.
Despite the country’s economy suffering huge blows when it shut its borders during the epidemic and continuing US-led sanctions, Kim has committed to grow a nuclear weapons he obviously regards as his biggest guarantee of survival.
His government has so far refused the Biden administration’s open-ended invitation to resume talks, claiming that Washington must first halt its “hostile policy” — Pyongyang’s phrase for sanctions and joint military drills between the US and South Korea.
North Korea looks to be indicating that it will not be ignored and that it would respond to pressure with pressure, according to Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.
“North Korea is attempting to lure the Biden administration into a trap,” Easley added. “It has a backlog of missiles it wants to test anyhow, and it is reacting to US pressure with further provocations in an attempt to coerce concessions,” says the report.
An anonymous Foreign Ministry representative described the launches as a virtuous act of self-defense in a statement released by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency on Friday.
The additional measures, according to the spokesman, demonstrate the US’ hostile desire to “isolate and suffocate” North Korea. The North’s development of the new missile, according to the spokeswoman, is part of the North’s attempts to upgrade its military and does not target any single nation or endanger the security of its neighbors.
Because of their speed and mobility, hypersonic weapons, which travel at speeds greater than Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound, might represent a significant threat to missile defenses.
Multi-warhead missiles, spy satellites, solid-fuel long-range missiles, and submarine-launched nuclear missiles were all on Kim’s wish list of advanced military assets released early last year.
Experts think North Korea will require years of testing and more successful and longer-range tests before developing a credible hypersonic system.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken told MSNBC that the North’s recent tests were “profoundly destabilizing” and that the US was working on a response at the UN and with important partners, including allies South Korea and Japan.
“I believe that some of this is North Korea’s attempt to get attention.” That’s what it’s done in the past. “It’ll probably keep doing that,” Blinken said. “However, we are working closely with our friends and partners to ensure that they and we are adequately protected, and that there are repercussions and consequences for North Korea’s activities.”