North Korea missiles: Biden says launch ‘not provocation’

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https://www.bbc.com-image copyright EPA

image caption Mr Biden was speaking to press on Tuesday night at the White House

US President Joe Biden has said he does not consider North Korea’s launch of short-range missiles – the first since he took office – as a provocation.

Mr Biden added that defence officials called it “business as usual”.

North Korea is said to have fired non-ballistic cruise missiles, which do not flout UN Security Council resolutions, over the weekend.

The incident happened after Pyongyang criticised the US and South Korea for conducting joint military exercises.

It also comes as Biden’s administration continues to attempt to establish diplomatic relations with North Korea.

The launch, originally reported by US media, has since been confirmed by US officials and the South Korean defence ministry.

South Korea said two cruise missiles were fired into the Yellow Sea early on Sunday from Onchon in North Korea.

Responding to reporters’ questions on Tuesday night, Mr Biden said: “We have learned that nothing has changed.”

When asked if he considered the test as a provocation, he said: “No, according to the Defence Department, it’s business as usual. There’s no new wrinkle in what they did.”

UN Security Council resolutions, which have resulted in strict sanctions on North Korea, have only banned Pyongyang from firing threatening weapons such as ballistic missiles.

 

This is no “fire and fury” from North Korea.

It’s true that every test of a missile by Pyongyang helps improve its military capabilities and that is always a concern to the international community.

But cruise missile tests are not a breach of UN Security Council sanctions and North Korea has bigger weapons in its arsenal if it really wanted to challenge the Biden administration.

The current focus of the new White House team and its allies is the impending review on North Korea policy.

Decades of sanctions and three summits between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un have failed to prevent Pyongyang from developing a larger and more deadly nuclear arsenal.

So President Biden is most likely shrugging off this latest missile test for good reason – there’s a much bigger challenge ahead.

Senior US officials have separately said they considered the action as “most normal military activity by the North”.

They added they were in the “final stages” of their North Korea policy review and planned to host Japan and South Korea’s national security advisers for a discussion soon.

The US government had previously said it had been trying for weeks to make diplomatic contact with North Korea.

Pyongyang has yet to acknowledge that President Biden is now in office, and the two countries remain at loggerheads over the North’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.

During Mr Biden’s election campaign, he called Mr Kim “a thug” and said North Korean nuclear disarmament had to happen before US and UN economic sanctions could be relaxed.

 

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