By KIM TONG-HYUNG, Associated Press
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – North Korea on Friday reprimanded the Biden administration for imposing new sanctions on the country for its latest missile tests and warned of stronger and more explicit action if Washington maintains its “confrontational position”.
In a statement released by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency, an unidentified Foreign Ministry spokesperson defended recent North launches of alleged hypersonic missiles as a just exercise in self-defense.
The spokesman said the new sanctions underscore the United States’ hostile intention to “isolate and suffocate” the North despite repeated calls from Washington to Pyongyang to resume diplomacy which has stalled over disagreements over the easing of sanctions and nuclear disarmament measures.
The Biden administration on Wednesday imposed sanctions on five North Koreans for their role in obtaining equipment and technology for North Korean missile programs in response to the latest North Korean missile test this week and also said she would seek further UN sanctions.
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The Treasury Department announcement came just hours after the North Korean chief said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had successfully overseen a test of a hypersonic missile on Tuesday that he said would increase the country’s nuclear “war deterrence” considerably.
The North Korean spokesman accused the United States of maintaining a “gangster” position, saying that the North’s development of the new missile is part of its efforts to modernize its military and does not target any particular country or threatens the safety of its neighbors. .
“Nonetheless, the United States is intentionally making matters worse even with the activation of independent sanctions, not content with referring the DPRK’s just activity to the UN Security Council,” the spokesperson said, using an abbreviation. from the official name of North Korea, the Democratic People’s Republic. from Korea.
“This shows that although the current US administration trumpets on diplomacy and dialogue, it is still engrossed in its policy of isolating and suffocating the DPRK … If the US takes such a confrontational stance, the DPRK will be forced to take stronger measures and certain reaction to this, ”the spokesperson said.
Tuesday’s test was North Korea’s second demonstration of its alleged hypersonic missile in a week. In recent months, the country has stepped up testing of new potentially nuclear-capable missiles designed to overwhelm missile defense systems in the region, as it continues to expand its military capabilities amid a freeze on diplomacy with the United States. United States.
Hypersonic weapons, which fly at speeds above Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound, could pose a critical challenge to missile defense systems due to their speed and maneuverability.
Such weapons were on a wishlist of sophisticated military assets that Kim unveiled early last year, as well as multi-warhead missiles, spy satellites, long-range solid-fuel missiles, and nuclear missiles. launched by submarine.
Still, experts say North Korea would need years and more successful, longer-range tests before acquiring a credible hypersonic system.
The Biden administration, whose policies reflected a broader shift in US focus from counterterrorism and so-called rogue states like North Korea and Iran to confrontation with China, has said it was ready to resume talks with North Korea at any time without preconditions.
But North Korea has so far rejected the idea of open-ended talks, saying the United States must first withdraw its “hostile policy,” a term Pyongyang uses primarily to describe sanctions and drills. joint military between the United States and South Korea.
In an interview with MSNBC, Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the latest northern tests “deeply unsettling” and said the United States was deeply engaged at the UN and with key partners, including allies. from South Korea and Japan, on a response.
“I think it’s part of North Korea that is trying to get attention. It has been done in the past. It will probably continue to do so,” Blinken said. “But we’re very focused with it. our allies and partners to make sure that they and we are properly defended and that there are repercussions, consequences for these actions by North Korea. “
The State Department said Biden’s special representative for North Korea Sung Kim had held separate calls with nuclear envoys from South Korea and Japan to discuss trilateral cooperation in the wake of recent Northern launches and reiterated Washington’s “rock-solid” commitment to defend its allies.
A US-led diplomatic push to convince North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program collapsed in 2019 after the Trump administration rejected the North’s demands for major sanctions relief in exchange for a partial transfer of its nuclear capacities.
Kim Jong Un has since pledged to further expand a nuclear arsenal that he clearly sees as his strongest guarantee of survival, despite the major setbacks the country’s economy has suffered amid border closures linked to the pandemic and persistent sanctions imposed by the United States.
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