BFF-05 North Korea fires ‘projectiles’ into sea: South

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BFF-05

NKOREA-SKOREA-US-DEFENCE

North Korea fires ‘projectiles’ into sea: South

SEOUL, March 25, 2021 (BSS/AFP) – North Korea fired two projectiles into
the sea early Thursday, the South’s military said, in what could be its first
ballistic missile test during the administration of Joe Biden.

The nuclear-armed North has a long history of using weapons tests as
provocations, in a carefully calibrated process to forward its objectives.

After a tumultuous relationship between leader Kim and president Donald
Trump, Pyongyang had been biding its time since the new administration took
office, not even officially acknowledging its existence until last week.

Seoul’s joint chiefs of staff said in a statement that the “unidentified
projectiles” were launched into the Sea of Japan, known as the East Sea in
Korea, from South Hamgyong province.

No further information on the device type was immediately available, but
they added the military had “strengthened its monitoring posture in close
coordination with the US”.

The South’s presidential Blue House said it would hold a national security
council meeting.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said two ballistic missiles were
involved.

“It’s been a year since they last launched a missile,” he told reporters.
“This threatens the peace and security of our country and the region. It is
also a violation of the UN resolution.”

The North is banned from developing ballistic missiles under UN Security
Council resolutions, and is under multiple international sanctions over its
weapons programmes.

But it has made rapid progress in its capabilities under Kim, testing
missiles capable of reaching the entire continental United States as tensions
mounted in 2017.

– ‘Lunatic theory’ –

Thursday’s launch comes after Pyongyang fired two short-range, non-
ballistic missiles in a westerly direction towards China at the weekend.

US officials played that down as not a violation of UN resolutions, with
Biden telling reporters: “According to the Defense Department, it’s business
as usual.”

It followed joint exercises by the US and South Korean militaries and a
visit to the region by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense
Secretary Lloyd Austin to discuss alliance and security issues.

During their trip to Seoul and Tokyo, Blinken repeatedly stressed the
importance of denuclearising Pyongyang.

That prompted North Korean first vice foreign minister Choe Son Hui to
accuse the US of a “lunatic theory of ‘threat from North Korea’ and
groundless rhetoric about ‘complete denuclearisation’.”

Washington is reviewing its approach to the North after a tumultuous
relationship between president Donald Trump and leader Kim, which went from
trading insults and threats of war to a diplomatic bromance and several
meetings, but made no substantive progress towards denuclearisation.

Trump held two headline-grabbing summits with Kim, in Singapore and
Vietnam, and the United States pulled back on some joint training activities
with South Korea’s military while North Korea froze intercontinental
ballistic missile tests.

But their February 2019 meeting in Hanoi broke up over sanctions relief and
what the North would be willing to give up in return.

Communications then dried up, despite a third encounter in the
Demilitarized Zone that divides the Korean peninsula.

The two-month-old Biden administration hopes to restart negotiations on the
North’s nuclear arsenal but officials say there has been no response to their
initial outreach.

US officials are now finalising a strategy to restart talks that the White
House will discuss with Japanese and South Korean security officials next
week, an administration official said.

BSS/AFP/FI/ 0800 hrs