North Korea threatens ‘stronger’ response as US demands sanctions over missile tests

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SEOUL – North Korea warned Friday that it would take “stronger and certain response” if the United States helped impose more sanctions on the north in response to its recent series of missile tests.

The North’s State Department statement came after a United States proposal that the UN Security Council impose new sanctions on North Korea after six ballistic and other missile tests since September 2021.

The tug-of-war between North Korea and the United States sparked tensions at a sensitive time in the region as China geared up to host the Winter Olympics next month in Beijing and South Korea ahead of the March 9 presidential election.

Separately on Wednesday, the Biden administration blacklisted five North Korean officials active in Russia and China whom Washington said were responsible for procuring supplies for North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs.

North Korea resumed missile testing in September after a six-month hiatus. Since then, it has conducted at least six missile tests, including a long-range strategic cruise missile, ballistic missiles rolled out of mountain tunnels, and a mini-submarine-launched ballistic missile. In two tests this month, it launched what it called hypersonic ballistic missiles with detachable sliding warheads that made them harder to intercept because they could change course in flight.

All of the tests violated UN Security Council resolutions banning North Korea from developing or testing ballistic missile technologies or technologies used to make and supply nuclear weapons. But the North’s foreign ministry insisted on Friday that it was exercising “its right to self-defense” and that the missile tests “were part of its effort to modernize its national defense capability.”

“The US is deliberately escalating the situation, even with the activation of independent sanctions, and is not satisfied with referring the DPRK’s righteous activity to the UN Security Council,” the ministry said in a statement, disguising the acronym for the DPRK. North’s official name, the Democratic People’s. Republic of Korea. It added: “If the US takes such a confrontational stance, the DPRK will be forced to respond more forcefully and confidently.”

The statement did not discuss possible future actions by North Korea. But the country has resumed missile tests since meetings between its leader, Kim Jong-un, and then-president Donald J. Trump ended without an agreement on how to roll back the North’s nuclear weapons program or when to lift sanctions.

Those tests indicated that the North was developing more sophisticated ways to deliver nuclear warheads and other warheads to South Korea, Japan and US bases there on shorter-range missiles, defense analysts said. Some of the missiles it has tested since 2019 have used solid fuel and made mid-air maneuvers, making them more difficult to intercept, the analysts said.

North Korea has not resumed testing long-range missiles of the kind that could pose a direct threat to the continental United States since it conducted three intercontinental ballistic missile tests in 2017. But since Kim-Trump diplomacy collapsed, North Korea has warned it no longer felt bound by the self-imposed moratorium on nuclear tests and long-range missiles. Since then, it has unveiled its largest, still untested ICBM at a military parade and exhibition.

At a Workers’ Party meeting in January last year, Kim pledged to make more advanced short-range nuclear missiles, hypersonic missiles, large ICBMs and submarine-launched long-range missiles, and to put military spy satellites into orbit.

On Friday, North Korea reiterated that its missile tests “did not target any specific country or military and that it did not harm the security of neighboring countries”. But in Tuesday’s test, the North’s hypersonic rocket traversed the country from west to east, then veered northeast, flying over the waters between the Russian Far East and Japan toward the Pacific Ocean, according to its orbit chart in a of the photos released in North Korean state media.

The missile hit a target 621 miles away, North said. And as the missile hit North Korea at up to 10 times the speed of sound, aviation regulators briefly stopped flights from some airports on the US west coast as a precaution.

It was the first missile test Mr Kim had attended since March 2020, according to reports in North Korean media.

The test prompted South Korea this week to reassure its residents that its military can detect and intercept the north’s new missiles.

Washington has repeatedly insisted North Korea will return to talks, but the country has said it won’t happen until it was convinced the United States would lift its “hostile” policies, including sanctions.

China, which can veto Washington’s attempt to impose more sanctions on the Security Council, called for dialogue.

“Deliberate sanctions do not help resolve the issue in the Korean peninsula, but only exacerbate the confrontational mood,” Wang Wenbin, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, said at a news conference on Wednesday.

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