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

A nurse holds vials of AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19 during a vaccination campaign at WiZink indoor arena in Madrid, Spain, Friday, April 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Manu Fernandez
Hope residents 40 and older can now get vaccinated at participating pharmacies

Remedy’s RX pharmacist said the response from the public was immediate following announcement

Future Finlandia Lion Ian Heagy with his biggest fan, mom Jen Heagy. (submitted photo)
Chilliwack hockey player Ian Heagy defies the odds to land at Finlandia

Having never played a minute of rep, Heagy is making the jump from house to NCAA Div 2 hockey

The Abbotsford Centre has the ability to host AHL level games if the Vancouver Canucks or any other NHL team chose to move its affiliate to the arena. (File photo)
Abbotsford Centre ready for AHL if right opportunity presents itself

Building recently upgraded glass and boards, schedule would allow for AHL tenant

In 2012, police in Abbotsford placed surveillance cameras near the Dhaliwal home in the 2500 block of Bradner Road after there were two drive-by shootings in the area. Harb Dhaliwal, 31, has now been identified as the victim of a fatal shooting April 17 in Vancouver. (Abbotsford News file photo)
Abbotsford man named as victim of fatal weekend shooting in Vancouver

Harpreet Dhaliwal, 31, killed outside of Cardero’s restaurant in Coal Harbour

Joudelie King wants to get out and live life to the fullest, but there are places she can’t go because they don’t meet her accessibility needs. (submitted photo)
New online tool provides accessibility map for people with disabilities

The myCommunity BC map provides accessibility info for nearly 1,000 locations in the province

In this image from NASA, NASA’s experimental Mars helicopter Ingenuity lands on the surface of Mars Monday, April 19, 2021. The little 4-pound helicopter rose from the dusty red surface into the thin Martian air Monday, achieving the first powered, controlled flight on another planet. (NASA via AP)
VIDEO: NASA’s Mars helicopter takes flight, 1st for another planet

The $85 million helicopter demo was considered high risk, yet high reward

A man has died after being shot at Coquitlam’s Town Centre Park the evening of Monday, April 19. (Twitter/IHIT)
1 man dead after shooting at Coquitlam park: IHIT

The gunman is still at large, according to the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team

Dr. Bonnie Henry gives her daily media briefing regarding Covid-19 for the province of British Columbia in Victoria, B.C, Monday, December 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Toddler marks youngest British Columbian to die related to COVID-19

Child one of eight people to die from virus this weekend

Families of two of three workers killed in a train derailment near Field, B.C., in 2019 have filed lawsuits accusing Canadian Pacific of gross negligence. The derailment sent 99 grain cars and two locomotives off the tracks. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Families of workers killed in Field train derailment allege negligence in lawsuit

Lawsuits allege the workers weren’t provided a safe work environment

(New Westminster Police)
4 youth arrested after 30-person brawl in New Westminster leaves 1 seriously injured

Police are looking for witnesses who saw the incident take place

South Surrey’s Paul Cottrell, who works with the DFO, tows a grey whale out of Semiahmoo Bay Sunday. (Contributed photo)
Dead whale floating near White Rock towed to shore for necropsy

Animal has been dead since at least April 15

Sunday’s storm rocked one of the ferries crossing Kootenay Lake. Photo: Dirk Jonker
VIDEO: Storm makes for wild ferry ride across Kootenay Lake

The video was captured by ferry employee Dirk Jonker

Chakalaka Bar & Grill remains open in defiance of orders from Island Health to close. (Cole Schisler photo)
B.C. health authority seeks injunction against restaurant defying COVID-19 orders

Chakalaka Bar and Grill plans to continue serving customers without public health compliance

Most Read