North Korea carried out its second significant weapons test last week, as the return to military provocations from nuclear-armed Kim Jong Un creates one of the first major foreign policy challenges for Joe Biden and his American allies. .
According to South Korea’s chiefs of staff, the North Korean military fired at least two projectiles into the waters off its east coast Thursday morning.
No other details, including the specification of the weapons used, were immediately available.
The launches on Thursday came just days after North Korea fired two cruise missiles, in what was the authoritarian regime’s first known military provocation since Joe Biden became President of the United States in January.
The United States and South Korea did not publicly disclose the missile launches on Sunday. The White House did not respond until after media reported Pyongyang fired two short-range missiles.
U.S. officials have previously played down cruise missile tests, saying they did not violate UN resolutions – which ban ballistic missile launches – and were at the bottom of the provocation scale. North Korea likes to lead.
Speaking of the weekend launches, a US official said it was “common” for North Korea to conduct tests and that the United States believed it was “not in our best interests to do so. hype about that stuff ”.
The White House and the Pentagon did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Thursday’s launches.
The Biden administration is completing a review to determine its policy in North Korea. Jake Sullivan, US national security adviser, will discuss the contours of the policy with his Japanese and South Korean counterparts when they visit Washington at the end of next week.
Antony Blinken, US Secretary of State, said last week that Pyongyang had so far pushed back American efforts engage with the plan.
Under former President Donald Trump, Kim continued to rapidly develop nuclear weapon technology while Washington insisted that the easing of sanctions was contingent on concrete action by Pyongyang to denuclearize.
Soo Kim, a former North Korean CIA analyst now at Rand Corporation, said the fact that the Biden administration made no explicit comment on its North Korean policy might have motivated Kim to “reaffirm the relevance of North Korea ”.
“But the fact that the missile test was rejected and the antics were immediately stopped can send Kim the message that Trump’s days are definitely over. Beyond the ‘more tops’ stance, we’re probably talking about a more measured and calibrated stance from Washington, ”she said.
The weapons tests also come against the backdrop of growing international concern over a humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in North Korea. Human rights groups have warned of a severe economic crisis and food shortages resulting from border closures due to the coronavirus, sanctions, typhoon damage and Kim’s economic policies.
Seoul, which is also pushing for engagement with Pyongyang, urged the international community to ease sanctions and step up aid to the North Korean people in response.