U.S. will 'respond accordingly' to North's escalation of tensions: Biden

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U.S. will 'respond accordingly' to North's escalation of tensions: Biden

North Korea launches short-range ballistic missiles from Hamju County in South Hamkyong Province into the East Sea Thursday morning, as pictured in a photo released by the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) Friday. The KCNA said that North Korea successfully tested new tactical guided missiles. [YONHAP]

North Korea launches short-range ballistic missiles from Hamju County in South Hamkyong Province into the East Sea Thursday morning, as pictured in a photo released by the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) Friday. The KCNA said that North Korea successfully tested new tactical guided missiles. [YONHAP]

 
U.S. President Joe Biden said Washington will “respond accordingly” if Pyongyang chooses to escalate tensions Thursday in his first press conference since taking office, while still leaving open the door to diplomacy.
 
Biden confirmed that United Nations Security Council resolutions were violated after North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the East Sea Thursday morning and told reporters at the White House, “Let me say that, number one, UN Resolution 1718 was violated by those particular missiles that were tested.”
 
The South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) earlier said that two projectiles believed to be ballistic missiles were fired from Hamju County in South Hamgyong Province Thursday morning and flew around 450 kilometers (280 miles) at an altitude of 60 kilometers. 
 
The North’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported Friday that Pyongyang test-fired its “new-type tactical guided missiles” the previous day, confirming the missiles were ballistic. It was Pyongyang's first known ballistic missile launch in a year. 
 
Resolution 1718 was adopted by the Security Council in October 2006, days after Pyongyang conducted its first nuclear test, and bans North Korea from conducting nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches.
  
When asked what action the United States will take in response to the launches Thursday, Biden replied, “There will be responses — if they choose to escalate, we will respond accordingly.”
 
He added, “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.”
 
U.S. President Joe Biden warns that the United States will “respond accordingly” if North Korea chooses to escalate tensions in his first press conference since taking office in the East Room of the White House in Washington Thursday. [AP/YONHAP]

U.S. President Joe Biden warns that the United States will “respond accordingly” if North Korea chooses to escalate tensions in his first press conference since taking office in the East Room of the White House in Washington Thursday. [AP/YONHAP]

The Biden administration is in the final stages of a comprehensive review of its North Korea policy and consulted South Korea and Japan on the issue during the U.S. secretary of state and Pentagon chief’s visit to East Asia last week. U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan will host Suh Hoon, director of the Blue House National Security Office, and their Japanese counterpart, Shigeru Kitamura, in Washington next week to further discuss North Korea strategy.
 
The Biden administration has signaled it could possibly increase its pressure to get North Korea to return to denuclearization talks and improve the human rights situation in the country, but also indicated it has been working on engagement, including reaching out to Pyongyang through diplomatic channels last month. 
 
According to the KCNA report Friday, the "newly-developed" tactical guided missiles accurately hit a target set in waters 600 kilometers off the east coast of the Korean Peninsula. It described the new tactical guided projectile as a weapons system with a 2.5-ton warhead that uses the “core technology” of an already developed missile.
 
The Academy of Defense Science, which conducted Thursday’s test and is at the center of the North’s missiles program subject to U.S. sanctions, called the launches “very successful” and claimed that “the reliability of the improved version of solid fuel engine was confirmed through several engine ground jet tests and their test-firing processes.”
 
North Korea leader Kim Jong-un did not supervise the missile launches in person, which were instead guided by Ri Pyong-chol, a member of the Presidium of the Political Bureau and secretary of the Central Committee of the North’s ruling Workers' Party. 
 
Ri was quoted by the KCNA as saying that the development of the weapons system “is of great significance in bolstering up the military power of the country and deterring all sorts of military threats existing on the Korean Peninsula.”
 
Experts point out this new-type missile could be an upgraded version of the North's KN-23 short-range ballistic missile, similar to the Russian-made Iskander mobile missile system. This variant was unveiled in a military parade in Pyongyang in January.
 
Pyongyang’s first provocation since the launch of the Biden administration in January could have been timed to send a message ahead of the new president’s first press conference.
 
North Korea fired two short-range cruise missiles off its west coast into the Yellow Sea, the JCS confirmed Wednesday, but the White House downplayed the launches. Cruise missiles do not violate UN Security Council resolutions as they are unmanned vehicles that are propelled by jet engines rather than rockets.
 
Biden brushed off the news of the cruise missile launches Tuesday and told reporters, “There’s no new wrinkle in what they did.”
 
On Thursday, however, a U.S. State Department spokesperson in a statement said Washington “condemns” the North’s latest “destabilizing ballistic missile launches."  
 
President Moon Jae-in in a speech Friday said in response to the North’s launches, “Actions that make the mood for dialogue difficult are undesirable."
 
He spoke at a ceremony marking the sixth anniversary of the Yellow Sea Defense Day at the South Korean Navy's 2nd Fleet Command in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi.
 
“I am well aware that the public is greatly concerned over North Korea’s missile test-firing yesterday,” said Moon. “Now is the time for South and North Korea and the United States to all work toward continuing dialogue.”
 
The Yellow Sea Defense Day commemorates over 50 service members who sacrificed their lives over the past two decades defending against North Korea’s provocations near the Northern Limit Line (NLL) in the Yellow Sea — a naval skirmish near Yeonpyeong Island in June 2002, a torpedo attack sinking the South’s Cheonan warship in March 2010 and the deadly shelling of the Yeonpyeong Island in November 2010.
 
BY SARAH KIM   [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]
 
President Moon Jae-in speaks at a ceremony marking the sixth Yellow Sea Defense Day at the Navy's 2nd Fleet Command in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi, on Friday, a day after North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the East Sea. [YONHAP]

President Moon Jae-in speaks at a ceremony marking the sixth Yellow Sea Defense Day at the Navy's 2nd Fleet Command in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi, on Friday, a day after North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the East Sea. [YONHAP]

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