U.S. blasts North's railway-borne missile test
The United States blasted North Korea over the weekend for its Friday tactical guided missile test, which the North's official state news agency revealed Saturday was conducted by its railway-based missile regiment.
In a Saturday phone conversation with South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the bilateral alliance “the linchpin of peace, security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond,” according to a statement from the U.S. State Department.
The State Department added that Blinken “highlighted the importance of continued U.S.-ROK-Japan trilateral cooperation and stressed that U.S. commitment to the defense of the ROK remains ironclad,” referring to the acronym for South Korea's official name, the Republic of Korea.
Blinken further condemned the Friday missile launches as violations of United Nations Security Council resolutions, which forbid the North from developing or testing ballistic missile technologies, according to the State Department.
The state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported Saturday that the North Korean military’s railway-based missile regiment conducted Friday’s drill from Uiju, North Pyongan Province, which borders China, to “check and judge the proficiency” of the unit’s capabilities.
According to the KCNA, the two tactical guided missiles hit their targets in the eastern waters off the Korean Peninsula. The targets are thought to have been set on Al Island, an uninhabited island off the North's east coast.
South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said the missiles flew around 430 kilometers eastward at an altitude of 36 kilometers, with the first missile launch detected at 2:41 p.m. and the other at 2:52 p.m.
The missiles flew at a top speed of around Mach 6, or six times the speed of sound, according to the military.
A JCS official told reporters on the condition of anonymity that the South Korean military believes the North fired the missiles “to verify the missiles' accuracy,” and that the launches were “aimed at enhancing the accuracy of the existing short-range ballistic missiles.”
The test marks the North's second known missile test using a railway launch platform after one in September last year, and the country's third show of force this year.
Train-borne launchers enhance the North’s ability to fire missiles without prior detection by South Korean and U.S. intelligence as they can be concealed inside railway cars and do not require a long period of preparation in a stationary location.
Friday’s test was the third launch by the North this year, following two separate tests of what the North claims were hypersonic glide missiles on Jan. 5 and Tuesday, the latter of which North Korean state media later reported was directly supervised by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
The flurry of missile activity from the North, the pace of which has picked up since September last year, resulted in the U.S. Joe Biden administration imposing its first sanctions on Pyongyang and blacklisting seven individuals and one Russian entity thought to be involved in procuring goods for the North's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) program from Russia and China.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the United States “will use every appropriate tool” to address the North's WMD and ballistic missile programs. However, he stressed that the Biden administration remains “committed to seeking dialogue and diplomacy” and called on Pyongyang to “engage in negotiations.”
The Biden administration has repeatedly called on North Korea to return to talks aimed at its denuclearization, saying it is ready to meet counterparts from Pyongyang “anywhere, anytime, without preconditions.”
The North has shown little appetite to engage in talks with the United States since the 2019 Hanoi summit between Kim and then-U.S. President Donald Trump collapsed without a deal.
BY MICHAEL LEE [email@example.com]