White House: North Korea conducted short-range missile test

North Korea fired off 2 short-range missiles over weekend: Official

The Biden administration officials said they hoped that diplomatic engagement with North Korea could continue, but did not support the idea of canceling military exercises as a way to spur talks, as had been tried by the Trump administration.

The missile tests, which had not previously been reported, were seen as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's first direct challenge to Biden, who took office in January.

In Seoul last week before meeting Chinese officials, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Biden's approach toward North Korea was still under review and stressed China's "clear self-interest" in getting its neighbor and Cold War ally back to the table.

The officials downplayed the test as "normal military activity" by North Korea, saying the weapons system was not one that is covered by United Nations sanctions.

Biden also said he doesn't consider the tests a major provocation.

It was part of a hostile policy towards the North and "a despicable political provocation", the spokesperson said in a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency late yesterday and headlined "Futile Act Will Incur Only Disgrace and Shame".

The officials say the United States will also hold bilateral meetings with Japan and South Korea.

But the launch of the project may signal that an end to North Korea's strict Covid-19 border closure is finally in the cards, he said.

"We take this opportunity to warn the new USA administration trying hard to give off [gun] powder smell in our land", Kim Yo Jong said in a statement, referencing the joint military operations in the region.

South Korean lawmaker Ha Tae-keung said in a Facebook posting that he was told by agency officials from Seoul's spy agency that the North fired two cruise missiles off its western seaport of Nampo around 6:36 a.m. Sunday.

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'If it wants to sleep in peace for the coming four years, it had better refrain from causing a stink at its first step, ' she said.

The next day, Blinken and Austin reaffirmed their commitment to the "complete denuclearisation of North Korea" in Japan and to creating opportunities for further cooperation between the US, Japan and South Korea, according to a statement from the US State Department.

Curiously, neither North Korea nor South Korea had acknowledged the firing of the two missiles as is routinely done by both countries.

China is looking to boost ties with North Korea and Russian Federation following a contentious meeting with USA officials in Alaska last week. Cruise missiles fly at a lower altitude and slower speed than ballistic missiles, making them easier to intercept, but they are still considered more accurate.

Since the 2018 hand-shake agreement that former President Donald Trump reached with Kim, North Korea has not conducted any long-range missile tests.

The last face-to-face talks between senior officials from the two countries were held in Sweden in October 2019 and efforts by the Biden administration to resume a dialogue have been rebuffed since February.

At the start of the Trump administration, tensions between the USA and North Korea were high.

The Biden administration had consulted widely with allies and partners on North Korea's nuclear ambitions, including during talks last week with Chinese counterparts in Anchorage.

Mr Kim is in the midst of the toughest crisis of his nine-year rule as the already-troubled economy was hit by coronavirus pandemic-related border closings that have sharply reduced the North's external trade.

A top North Korean diplomat last week said the country would never answer U.S. diplomatic overtures until Washington dropped hostile policies and called for sanctions relief.

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