According to media reports that were confirmed by the White House, North Korea tested two short-range missiles over the weekend, marking the first missile tests by Pyongyang since President Biden came into office.
Two senior administration officials who spoke with reporters on the condition of anonymity downplayed the tests and said the missiles that were launched are not under UN sanctions. “We see this action in the category of normal activity,” one official said.
When asked about the reported missile tests, President Biden said, “We have learned that nothing much has changed.”
The missile test came after Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin made threatening comments towards North Korea during a visit to Seoul last Thursday. Austin said US and South Korean forces were ready to “fight tonight.” His remarks came after Pyongyang denounced Washington and Seoul’s decision to resume military exercises after a one-year pause due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Biden administration is currently reviewing its North Korea policy. But Biden officials continue to call for a denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, which is a non-starter for negotiations with Pyongyang. A more realistic approach for the US to take would be an offer to ease sanctions in exchange for a freeze in North Korea’s nuclear arsenal.
Around Austin’s visit to Seoul last week, a North Korean official said the US would have to drop its “hostile policies” to restart nuclear talks. “We have already declared our stand that no DPRK-US contact and dialogue of any kind can be possible unless the US rolls back its hostile policy towards the DPRK,” said Choe Son-hui, North Korea’s first vice minister of foreign affairs.