North Korea on Friday fired two short-range ballistic missiles in its third weapons launch this month, despite new US sanctions.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the missiles came from a landlocked area in western North Pyongan province.
Japan’s prime minister’s office and defense ministry also spotted the launch, while coast guards urged ships to watch for falling objects.
Hours earlier, North Korea issued a statement berating the “gangster-like” Biden administration for imposing new sanctions over its missile tests and warning of stronger and more explicit measures if Washington maintains its “confrontational stance”.
North Korea on Friday fired two short-range ballistic missiles in its third weapons launch this month, despite new US sanctions. Pictured: An earlier test launch of a hypersonic missile that took place in North Korea on January 11, 2022
Pictured: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un watches what the North Korean government is describing as a test launch of a hypersonic missile on January 11, 2022 in North Korea
The sanctions targeted five North Koreans for their role in procuring equipment and technology for the North’s missile programs in their response to the North’s 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 overseen by leader Kim Jong Un, who said it would greatly increase his country’s nuclear “war deterrence”.
North Korea has stepped up testing of new, potentially nuclear-capable missiles designed to overwhelm the region’s missile defenses. Some pundits say Kim is returning to a tried-and-true technique of bullying the world with rocket launches and outrageous threats before offering negotiations to force concessions.
After an unusually provocative series of nuclear and long-range missile tests in 2017 that showed the North’s aspiration to an arsenal that could target the American homeland, Kim launched diplomacy with former President Donald Trump in 2018 to try to secure his Using nuclear weapons for economic gain.
But negotiations stalled after Kim’s second summit with Trump in 2019, when Americans rejected his calls for greater sanctions relief in exchange for a partial handover of the North’s nuclear capabilities.
Kim has since pledged to continue building a nuclear arsenal, which he clearly regards as his strongest guarantee of survival, despite the country’s economy suffering major setbacks following the closure of its borders during the pandemic as well as ongoing US-led sanctions.
His administration has so far rejected the Biden administration’s open-ended offer to resume talks, saying Washington must first abandon its “hostile policies” — a term Pyongyang uses primarily to describe sanctions and joint US-South Korea military exercises describe.
Graphic showing how hypersonic missiles are able to avoid radar detection longer than ICBMs by flying closer to Earth
Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, said North Korea seemed to be signaling that it would not be ignored and would respond with pressure if pressured.
“North Korea is trying to trap the Biden administration,” Easley said. “It has queued up missiles it plans to test anyway and is responding to US pressure with additional provocations to extort concessions.”
In a statement by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency on Friday, an unidentified Foreign Ministry spokesman defended the launches as a sincere exercise in self-defense.
The spokesman said the new sanctions underscore the US hostile intent to “isolate and smother” the North. The spokesman accused Washington of taking a “gangster-like” stance, saying the North’s development of the new missile was part of its effort to modernize its military and was not aimed at any particular country or threatening the security of its neighbors.
Hypersonic weapons, flying at speeds in excess of Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound, could pose a critical missile defense challenge due to their speed and maneuverability.
Such weapons were on a wish list of sophisticated military assets that Kim unveiled early last year, along with multi-warhead missiles, spy satellites, long-range solid-fuel missiles and submarine-launched nuclear missiles.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (right) looks at monitors alongside military leaders during a missile test launch in North Korea January 11, 2022
But experts say North Korea would need years and more successful longer-range testing before it can acquire a credible hypersonic system.
In an interview with MSNBC, Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the North’s recent tests “deeply destabilizing” and said the United States was deeply involved in a response at the United Nations and with key partners, including allies South Korea and Japan.
“I think part of that is North Korea trying to get attention. That’s what has been done in the past. It probably will continue to do so,” said Blinken. “But we are very focused on allies and partners to ensure they and we are adequately defended and that there are repercussions and consequences for these actions by North Korea.”