WASHINGTON – 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.
The missile tests were confirmed by two senior Biden administration officials who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity. They come as North Korea has ignored offers from the new administration to resume negotiations, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week pressed China to use its “tremendous influence” to convince North Korea to abandon its nuclear program.
The officials, however, sought to downplay the significance of the missile tests, noting that they are not covered by U.N. Security Council resolutions meant to deter North Korea from pursuing a nuclear program.
Biden himself told reporters the missile tests were not a provocation. “There’s no new wrinkle in what they did," he said.
South Korea’s military said in a statement Wednesday that it had detected two suspected cruise missile launches by North Korea on Sunday morning. It said the launches were made off North Korea’s west coast and said South Korea is analyzing them.
The statement said South Korea is closely monitoring North Korean missile activities in cooperation with the United States, but noted it doesn’t publicize all its information about North Korea.
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. Ha, an executive secretary of the National Assembly’s intelligence committee, which regularly receives closed-door briefings from the spy agency, said he was told that the U.S. and South Korean militaries had detected the launches but had agreed not to publicize them.
The Biden administration has been open about its desire to engage the North in negotiations even as the regime has batted away calls for the two nations to talk. In North Korea’s first comments directed at the Biden administration, the North Korean leader Kim's powerful sister earlier this month warned the United States to “ refrain from causing a stink” if it wants to “sleep in peace” for the next four years.