Tags: Biden Administration | North Korea | missiletest | north korea | kim jong Un

N. Korea Fires Short-Range Missiles, Challenging Biden

a woman holds a coffee cup walking past a screen with a missile launch
A South Korean woman walks past a screen showing file footage of a North Korean missile test, on March 29, 2020. (Jung Yeon-je / AFP via Getty Images)

Tuesday, 23 March 2021 05:07 PM

North Korea fired several short-range ballistic missiles over the weekend following complaints about the United States carrying out joint military exercises with South Korea, The Washington Post reported Tuesday, citing sources familiar with what is happening in the country.

Reuters, citing unnamed officials, reported that only two missiles were fired.

The Pentagon declined to comment to Reuters.

North Korea did not make any announcement about the tests, which is unusual. They were discovered by U.S. intelligence methods outside the country.

The tests are the communist country's first direct challenge to President Joe Biden, who has not indicated what policy stance he will take with the unpredictable leader Kim Jong Un.

Such tests have been thought imminent for weeks by intelligence officials monitoring the country. Though North Korea has long taken issued with the joint exercises, Kim's sister, Kim Yo Jong, stepped up the talk with a warning last week, saying that if the Biden administration "wants to sleep in peace for the coming four years, it had better refrain from causing a stink."

Biden has yet to announce a strategy with North Korea. President Barack Obama declined to engage with Kim until he changed his behavior, while President Donald Trump took the complete opposite approach and held in-person summits with the leader.

Both approaches largely failed to sway North Korea, though Trump's approach did stall Pyongyang from detonating a nuclear device or launching a nuclear device since Trump's meeting with Kim in 2018.

Recent satellite evidence appears to show the country might be ramping up activity at its Yongbyon nuclear research center, the website 38 North reported. The Biden administration is aware of potential criticism it is "dithering" if North Korea restarts its nuclear tests, the Post noted.

The administration told Reuters it had reached out to North Korea in February, but received no response.

"There is an urgent need to re-engage with the North because Pyongyang continues to amass more plutonium for nuclear weapons," Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, told the Post. "The sooner the better."

South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong also has called for an early resumption of dialogue" between the North and the United States.

"The South very much wants diplomacy with the North," one the Post's sources told the paper. "They are incredibly worried that the Biden administration is going to repeat the problems of 2009 in which, for a variety of reasons, the United States was slow."

Most experts agree that the North will eventually attempt to return to negotiations to try to win aid, but they differ over when — and what it would take for talks to resume.

Kim has recently been defiant about advancing a nuclear arsenal he sees as his strongest guarantee of survival. He has also urged his people to be resilient in the struggle for economic self-reliance while launching a new multiyear plan to salvage his broken economy.

Kim’s focus on his domestic economic drive could mean that the North stays away from talks for another year and comes back only after it becomes clear that Kim’s new policies are failing, according to Shin Beomchul, an analyst with the Seoul-based Korea Research Institute for National Strategy.

The Associated Press contributed.

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North Korea fired several short-range ballistic missiles over the weekend following complaints about the United States carrying out joint military exercises with South Korea.
missiletest, north korea, kim jong Un
Tuesday, 23 March 2021 05:07 PM
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