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N. Korea Launches Ballistic Missiles in First Challenge to Biden

Hot Issues of the Week2021-03-28


North Korea launched two short-range ballistic missiles toward Japan earlier this week on Thursday. The two projectiles dropped into the East Sea before reaching Japanese waters, but the launch put Seoul, Washington and Tokyo on edge.

[JCS spokesman Kim Joon-rak (Korean-English translation)]

"[The South Korean] military detected two short-range missile launches at around 7:06 a.m. and 7:25 a.m. from North Korea's Hamju, South Hamgyong Province... "

The South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff(JCS) said the North launched two projectiles from the eastern coastal Hamju, South Hamgyong Province at around 7:06 a.m. and 7:25 a.m on Thursday  

The missiles traveled around 450 kilometers and landed in the East Sea before reaching Japanese waters.

[N. Korean Korean Central Television (Mar. 26)] 

"The Academy of Defence Science of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea test-fired a newly-developed tactical guided projectile on the 25th of March."

North Korean media outlets announced the following day that the Academy of Defence Science successfully test-fired two new tactical guided missiles, claiming that they accurately hit the target set in the water 600 kilometers off the east coast.

Given the photos of the test launch North Korean media released, experts believe the projectiles were the KN-23 variant of the Russian-made Iskander ballistic missile that North Korea modified.

Thursday's launch came after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's sister issued a statement just about a week earlier, threatening Seoul and Washington over their joint military drills.

The North then launched two cruise missiles into the West Sea last Sunday, reminding the South of Kim's remarks about developing tactical nuclear missiles earlier in January. 

After the military detected the missile activity, the South Korean National Security Council(NSC) held an emergency meeting at the presidential office for an hour and a half Thursday morning, and issued a statement, expressing "deep concern” that this came as the U.S. is reviewing its North Korea policy.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in called for restraint from North Korea, saying that now is time for the two Koreas and the U.S. to hold dialogue.

In his speech marking the sixth Yellow Sea Defense Day on Friday at the Navy Second Fleet command, Moon addressed the North’s military move.

[President Moon Jae-in (Korean-English translation)]

"I am well aware of the public concerns following North Korea's missile launches yesterday. Now is time for the South, North and the U.S. to exert efforts to continue dialogue. Any attempt to hurt the atmosphere for dialogue is inadvisable. We are going to observe the principles of a nuclear free Korean Peninsula but we do possess the world's best missile capabilities sufficient to defend ourselves."

Meanwhile, U.S. President Joe Biden said he will respond accordingly should North Korea continue to escalate tension, and any diplomatic engagement will be contingent upon the aim of denuclearizing the regime.

During his first formal news conference as president on Thursday, Biden was asked about the missile launches.

[US President Joe Biden]

(Reporter: "Mr. President. Overnight, we learned that North Korea tested two ballistic missiles. What, if any, actions will you take? And what is your red line on North Korea?"

"Let me say that, number one, UN Resolution 1718 was violated by those particular missiles that were tested - number one. We’re consulting with our allies and partners. And there will be responses - if they choose to escalate, we will respond accordingly. "But I’m also prepared for some form of diplomacy, but it has to be conditioned upon the end result of denuclearization. So that’s what we’re doing right now: consulting with our allies."

Meanwhile, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said there is a need to strengthen vigilance and monitoring and that Tokyo will closely cooperate with the U.S. and South Korea.

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