The launch came a day after US and South Korean officials announced that North Korea had launched short-range weapons, presumably cruise missiles, into its West Sea over the weekend.
Negotiations over North Korea’s nuclear program faltered after the collapse of Kim Jong Un’s second summit with former President Donald Trump in February 2019, when the Americans rejected North Korea’s demands for major sanctions relief in exchange for a partial surrender of their nuclear capabilities.
North Korea has so far ignored the Biden administration’s efforts to reach out, saying it will not engage in meaningful talks unless Washington abandons its “hostile” policies.
Kim’s powerful sister last week scolded the United States over the latest round of joint military exercises with South Korea that ended earlier this month, calling the exercise an invasion rehearsal and warning Washington not to “refrain from causing a stench” if it wanted to “sleep.” Peacefully “for the next four years.
Just hours after the launch of the service on Thursday, South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui Young is scheduled to meet with visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Seoul for discussions on North Korea and other regional issues. The presidential office in South Korea said it would hold an emergency meeting of the National Security Council to discuss the launches.
South Korea’s Defense Ministry said that the short-range tests North Korea conducted on Sunday were the first missile launches since April 2020. President Joe Biden played down those launches, telling reporters, “There are no new wrinkles in what they did.”
North Korea has a history of testing new US administrations with missile launches and other provocations aimed at forcing the Americans to return to the negotiating table.
Since Trump’s first meeting with Kim in Singapore in 2018, North Korea has not conducted nuclear or long-range missile tests, although analysts believe they have pressed ahead with their programs on both.
North Korea continued its short and medium range missile tests during its suspension of nuclear and long-range tests, to expand its ability to strike targets in South Korea and Japan, including the US bases there.
While Kim pledged to strengthen his nuclear weapons program in his recent speeches, he also tried to give the new US administration a chance by saying that the fate of their relations rests on Washington.
During his visit to Seoul last week, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken harshly criticized North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and its human rights record and pressured China to use its “enormous influence” to persuade North Korea to denuclearize.