U.S. joins condemnation of major new North Korean missile test

The Biden administration joined Asian allies Thursday in swiftly condemning North Korea‘s latest missile test, an intercontinental ballistic missile that experts say may be the largest Pyongyang has tested this year.

South Korea’s military responded to the launch with live-fire drills of its own, and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida called the 670-mile ICBM test flight an act of “unforgivable recklessness.”

But the test was a reminder to Mr. Kishida and to President Biden — both of whom were in Belgium for a summit on the crisis in Ukraine — that the isolated, nuclear-armed regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is determined not to be ignored, even with much of the world’s attention focused elsewhere.

It was also the North’s first major missile test since the election earlier this month of conservative Yoon Suk-yeol as president of South Korea.

Mr. Yoon, who takes office in May, has promised a tougher line against the North and a closer relationship with the U.S. than was the case under outgoing President Moon Jae-in.

Pyongyang had suspended major missile tests in 2018 amid a series of precedent-shattering direct meetings between Mr. Kim and then-President Donald Trump. But the talks broke down and the North has resumed testing in recent months.

If confirmed by experts, Thursday’s test would be the first of a new ICBM capable of reaching the entire U.S. homeland since 2017.

“Like [North Korea‘s] other escalatory tests this year, including at least two intercontinental ballistic missiles, this launch is a clear violation of multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions, and demonstrates the threat [North Korea‘s] unlawful weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs pose to [its] neighbors and the region as a whole,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement early Thursday.

“We have been and will continue to coordinate closely with our allies and partners to address the threats posed by [North Korea], and to advance our shared objective of the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” Mr. Price added.

Analysts say Mr. Kim‘s regime has conducted an escalating series of missile tests in recent months to express its frustration with the lack of progress on direct talks with the Biden administration and the continuation of harsh economic sanctions on the North Korean economy.

The U.S. has said it is ready for direct talks without preconditions, but so far Pyongyang has not taken up the offer.

“The door has not closed on diplomacy, but Pyongyang must immediately cease its destabilizing actions,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday in a statement. “The United States will take all necessary measures to ensure the security of the American homeland and [South Korean] and Japanese allies.”

Mr. Moon and the transition team for Mr. Yoon issued separate statements condemning the North’s move.

The launch was a “breach of the suspension of intercontinental ballistic missile launches promised by Chairman Kim Jong Un to the international community,” Mr. Moon said in a statement after an emergency meeting with top security officials.


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