By Kim Tong-hyung, associated Press
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – North Korea on Thursday test-fired its first ballistic missiles since President Joe Biden took office, as it expands its military capabilities and puts pressure on Washington while nuclear talks stagnate. is.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihida Suga said the launch threatens peace and security in Japan and the region, and that Tokyo will coordinate closely with Washington and Seoul on the North’s testing activities.
At an emergency National Security Council meeting in Seoul, officials expressed “deep concern” that the North launched the missile, while the Biden administration is looking to complete a review of the policy on North Korea.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff of South Korea said the two short-range missiles were fired from an area on the north east coast at 7:06 am and 7:25 am and 450 km (279 mi) at an upstream of 60 km (37). ) Flew miles) before landing at sea. It said that South Korea’s military has increased surveillance in terms of “further provocation” from the north.
US Indo-Pacific Command spokesman Capt Mike Kafka said the US military was aware of the missiles and was closely monitoring the situation, consulting closely with allies.
Another senior US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss military comments, matched the information from the South Korean military, saying that initial assessment suggested two short-range ballistic missiles to the north. It shows.
“This activity exposes the danger that North Korea’s illegal arms programs have for its neighbors and the international community,” Kafka said.
The day after the launch, US and South Korean officials said that northern short-range weapons projected their cruise sea missiles into the western sea over the weekend.
North Korea has a history of testing the new US administration with missile launches and other provocations, intended to bring Americans back to the negotiating table.
Nevertheless, the launch on Thursday was a measured provocation in 2017 compared to nuclear and intercontinental missile tests that were driven by war fears before the North moved to diplomacy with the Trump administration in 2018.
Analysts say the North gradually increases its weapons performance to increase its bargaining power as it angles to return to stalled negotiations aimed at leveraging nuclear weapons for badly needed economic gains. makes.
It is unclear how the Biden administration will react before it completes a review of its policy on North Korea in the coming weeks.
Negotiations over the North’s nuclear program faltered following the collapse of Kim Jong Un’s second summit with President Donald Trump in February 2019, when Americans responded to North Korean demands for relief from major sanctions in exchange for partial surrender of their nuclear capabilities. Rejected.
Since Trump’s first meeting with Kim in 2018, North has not conducted nuclear or long-range missile testing, though analysts believe he has pushed ahead with his schedules on both.
The North has continued short and medium-range missile testing during the suspension of its nuclear and long-range tests, leading to increased strike strike capability, including US bases in South Korea and Japan.
North Korea has so far ignored the efforts of the Biden administration, saying it will not engage in meaningful dialogue until Washington ends its “hostile” policies.
Kim’s powerful sister ended the United States last week in her latest round of joint military exercises with South Korea, which she describes as a practice rehearsal earlier this month and warned Washington if If “sleep” is wanted, it should be “refrained from causing odor”. For the next four years in peace ”.
South Korea’s Foreign Minister Chung Yui-yong launched hours before meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Seoul to discuss North Korea and other regional issues.
South Korea’s Ministry of Defense said Sunday’s short-range test north was its first missile firing since April 2020. “There is no new wrinkle in what he did,” President Joe Biden told reporters during the launch.
While Kim has vowed to strengthen his nuclear weapons program in recent speeches, he tried to give an opening to the new US administration, saying that the fate of their relationship depends on Washington.
During his visit to Seoul last week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken strongly criticized North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and human rights record and pressured China to use its “tremendous influence” to make the North nuclear free.
Associated Press authors Yuri Kagayama and Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo and Amer Madhani and Lolita Baldor in Washington contributed to this report.
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