North Korea confirms missile tests while Biden warns of reaction

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – North Korea confirmed on Friday that it had tested a new guided missile as President Joe Biden warned of the fallout if Pyongyang tensions escalate amid deadlocked nuclear negotiations.

The official North Korea Central News Agency said the two “new type of tactically guided missiles” accurately hit the target for the east coast on Thursday. Photos on the Rodong Sinmun newspaper’s website in the north showed a rocket taking off from a launch vehicle amid bright flames.

KCNA quoted top official Ri Pyong Chol, who oversaw the test, as saying that the development of the new weapon is “of great importance in strengthening the country’s military might and deterring all kinds of military threats posed on the Korean peninsula. to exist”.

Japanese officials said both weapons tested on Thursday were ballistic missiles, which have been banned by UN Security Council resolutions. North Korea fired two other missiles on Sunday, according to South Korean officials, but they were likely cruise missiles, which are not banned.

The test fires were the North’s first major provocation since Biden took office in January. Some experts say North Korea tried to pressure the Biden government to increase its influence in future talks.

“We are consulting with our allies and partners,” Biden told a press conference on Thursday. And there will be reactions if they choose to escalate. We will respond accordingly. But I am also prepared for some form of diplomacy, but it must depend on the end result of denuclearization. ”

The United States has called for a meeting of the UN Security Council committee overseeing sanctions against North Korea, and it will take place behind closed doors Friday morning. The committee includes representatives from all 15 countries on the council.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who is pursuing closer ties with North Korea, made a rare criticism of Pyongyang over the launches on Friday.

“I know very well that our people are very concerned about North Korea’s missile launches yesterday,” Moon said at a military ceremony. “Now is the time for South and North Korea and the United States to make an effort to (resume) the talks. An action that hinders the dialogue atmosphere is not at all desirable. “

Talks between the US and North Korea about curbing the North’s nuclear ambitions have been in limbo for about two years due to disputes over US-led sanctions against the North. In January, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said he would expand his arsenal of weapons and build his country’s military capacity to face what he called US hostility.

KCNA said the weight of the new weapon ‘s warhead has been improved to 2.5 tons (5,510 pounds). Thursday’s test also confirmed the reliability of the upgraded version of the weapon ‘s solid fuel engine, which would increase rocket mobility, and of the low-altitude maneuverable flight.

South Korean observers said the weapon is likely an upgraded North Korean version of the Russian-made Iskander, a short-range nuclear-powered missile designed to fly at low altitudes and make adjustments to in-flight guidance. They said it has a better chance of dodging missile defense systems in South Korea.

Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said on Friday that the North Korean weapon is a new type of ballistic missile displayed at a military parade in Pyongyang in January. Kishi said Japan would strengthen its missile defense system to “ensure peace and security.”

Associated Press authors Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations and Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo contributed to this report.