A photo showing North Korea’s missile launch is displayed at the Unification Observation Post in Paju, near the border with North Korea, South Korea, Wednesday, March 24, 2021. North Korea fired short-range missiles this past weekend, just days after the sister of Kim Jong Un threatened the United States and South Korea for holding joint military exercises. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

A photo showing North Korea’s missile launch is displayed at the Unification Observation Post in Paju, near the border with North Korea, South Korea, Wednesday, March 24, 2021. North Korea fired short-range missiles this past weekend, just days after the sister of Kim Jong Un threatened the United States and South Korea for holding joint military exercises. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

North Korea test-fires ballistic missiles in message to U.S.

North Korea has a history of testing new U.S. administrations with missile launches and other provocations

North Korea on Thursday test-fired its first ballistic missiles since President Joe Biden took office as it expands its military capabilities and increases pressure on Washington while nuclear negotiations remain stalled.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said North Korea’s resumption of ballistic testing threatens “peace and safety in Japan and the region,” and that Tokyo will closely co-ordinate with Washington and Seoul on the North’s military activities.

South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong, after meeting his Russian counterpart in Seoul, expressed “deep concern” and urged the North to uphold its commitments for peace. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called for a swift resumption of dialogue to resolve the standoff with North Korea.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the two short-range missiles were fired at 7:06 a.m. and 7:25 a.m. on the North’s eastern coast and flew 450 kilometres (279 miles) on an apogee of 60 kilometres (37 miles) before landing in the sea.

A senior U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss military observations, matched the information from Tokyo and Seoul, saying that initial assessments suggest the North fired two short-range ballistic missiles.

“This activity highlights the threat that North Korea’s illicit weapons program poses to its neighbours and the international community,” said U.S. Indo-Pacific Command spokesperson Capt. Mike Kafka.

The launches came a day after U.S. and South Korean officials said the North fired short-range weapons presumed to be cruise missiles into its western sea over the weekend.

North Korea has a history of testing new U.S. administrations with missile launches and other provocations aimed at forcing the Americans back to the negotiating table.

Still, Thursday’s launches were a measured provocation compared to the nuclear and intercontinental missile tests in 2017 that inspired war fears before the North shifted toward diplomacy with the Trump administration in 2018.

Analysts expect the North to gradually dial up its weapons displays to gain bargaining power as it angles to get back into stalled talks aimed at leveraging nuclear weapons for badly needed economic benefits.

North Korea has so far ignored the Biden administration’s efforts to reach out, saying it won’t engage in meaningful talks unless Washington abandons its “hostile” policies.

It’s unclear how the Biden administration will respond before it completes its policy review on North Korea in coming weeks.

The missile launches followed a trip by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin to Japan and South Korea last week as Washington pushes to restore its alliances in Asia.

During the trip, Blinken sternly criticized North Korea’s nuclear program and human rights record and pressed China to use its “tremendous influence” to convince the North to denuclearize.

North Korean state media had said Tuesday that leader Kim Jong Un reaffirmed his country’s traditional alliance with China while exchanging messages with Chinese President Xi Jinping in an apparent response to Biden’s efforts to co-ordinate action on North Korea with his allies.

The negotiations over the North’s nuclear program faltered after the collapse of Kim’s second summit with President Donald Trump in February 2019, when the Americans rejected North Korean demands for major sanctions relief in exchange for a partial surrender of its nuclear capabilities.

Since Trump’s first meeting with Kim in 2018, the North has not conducted nuclear or long-range missile tests, although analysts believe it has pressed ahead with both programs.

The North has continued short- and medium-range missile testing during its suspension of nuclear and long-range tests, expanding its ability to strike targets in South Korea and Japan, including U.S. bases there.

Kim Dong-yub, an analyst from South Korea’s Institute for Far Eastern Studies, said the flight data suggests the North possibly tested a new solid-fuel system modeled after Russia’s 9K720 Iskander mobile ballistic missiles.

The low-flying missiles, which analysts see as potentially nuclear capable, are designed to be manoeuvrable so they have a better chance at evading missile defence systems.

The North had conducted at least 16 launches of these missiles and other new short-range systems from 2019 to 2020.

Trump had been accused of giving North Korea room to advance its weaponry by repeatedly dismissing its short-range missile tests despite the threat they posed to South Korea and Japan.

If Biden takes a different approach by imposing additional sanctions over short-range ballistic launches, the North may use it as an excuse for more provocative tests, including those involving submarine-launched missile systems, said Cheong Seong-Chang, an analyst at South Korea’s Sejong Institute.

Kim Jong Un’s powerful sister last week berated the United States over its latest round of combined military exercises with South Korea this month, warning Washington to “refrain from causing a stink” if it wants to “sleep in peace” for the next four years.

The North’s short-range tests on Sunday were its first known missile firings since April 2020. Biden played down those launches, telling reporters, “There’s no new wrinkle in what they did.”

__

AP journalists Yuri Kageyama and Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo and Aamer Madhani and Lolita Baldor in Washington contributed to this report.

Kim Tong-Hyung, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

North Korea

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Millstone River in Nanaimo. (News Bulletin file photo)
Regional district looks at value of Nanaimo’s natural assets

Report focused on the Millstone River could inform future decisions on corporate asset management

Protesters gather along the Pearson Bridge on Terminal Avenue in downtown Nanaimo last month as part of an event called Worth More Standing. (News Bulletin file photo)
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: B.C. hasn’t managed forests properly

Protesters opposing logging in Fairy Creek speak for many British Columbians, say letter writers

Nanaimo singer Victoria Vaughn recently released an EP with local producer Austin Penner. (Photo courtesy Taylor Murray)
Nanaimo singer and recent VIU grad releases EP about becoming an adult

Victoria Vaughn’s ‘Growing Pains’ recorded with local producer Austin Penner

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control has listed Harbour Air and Air Canada flights to and from Nanaimo, from April 3, 4 and 12, on its list of flights with COVID-19. (News Bulletin file)
COVID-19 cases reported for Air Canada, Harbour Air flights, says disease control centre

Nanaimo flights for April 3, 4 and 12 listed on BCCDC’s list of flights with COVID-19

Rebates through Clean B.C.’s Better Homes New Construction program are available, says the City of Nanaimo. (Vancouver Island University photo)
Energy-efficient home builds in Nanaimo eligible for up to $15K in rebates

All building permits issued on, or after, April 1, 2020 eligible, says City of Nanaimo

Pat Kauwell, a semi-retired construction manager, lives in his fifth-wheel trailer on Maxey Road because that’s what he can afford on his pension, but a Regional District of Nanaimo bylaw prohibits using RVs as permanent dwellings, leaving Kauwell and others like him with few affordable housing options. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Housing crunch or not, it’s illegal to live in an RV in Nanaimo

Regional District of Nanaimo bylaw forcing pensioner to move RV he calls home off private farm land

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday December 8, 2020 in Ottawa. The stage is set for arguably the most important federal budget in recent memory, as the Liberal government prepares to unveil its plan for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery even as a third wave of COVID-19 rages across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Election reticence expected to temper political battle over federal budget

Opposition parties have laid out their own demands in the weeks leading up to the budget

Noel Brown, Snuneymuxw First Nation carver, observes the house post he carved, which now is situated in front of the Kw’umut Lelum centre on Centre Street in Nanaimo. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
House post representative of work of Kw’umut Lelum in Nanaimo

Snuneymuxw First Nation artist Noel Brown’s carved red cedar house post unveiled Friday, April 16

(Black Press file photo).
UPDATED: Multiple stabbings at Vancouver Island bush party

Three youths hospitalized after an assault in Comox

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to open up COVID vaccine registration to all B.C. residents 18+ in April

Registration does not equate to being able to book an appointment

Russ Ball (left) and some of the team show off the specimen after they were able to remove it Friday. Photo supplied
Courtenay fossil hunter finds ancient turtle on local river

The specimen will now make its home at the Royal BC Museum

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. finance minister to table historic pandemic-challenged deficit budget

Budget aims to take care of people during pandemic while preparing for post-COVID-19 recovery, Robinson said

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Most Read