North Korea fired short-range missiles last weekend, just days after Kim Jong Un’s sister threatened the United States and South Korea for joint military exercises.
The missile tests were confirmed by two senior officials in the Biden administration who informed journalists about anonymity. They come when North Korea has ignored offers from the new administration to resume negotiations, and Foreign Minister Antony Blinken last week pressured China to use its “enormous influence” to persuade North Korea to abandon its nuclear program.
However, officials tried to downplay the importance of the missile tests, noting that they are not covered by UN Security Council resolutions aimed at discouraging North Korea from pursuing a nuclear program.
“We have learned that nothing has changed much,” Biden said of North Korea in a brief exchange with journalists after a speech on health insurance in Columbus, Ohio.
The Biden administration has been open about its desire to engage north in negotiations, even though the regime has averted talks for the two nations to talk. In North Korea’s initial comments to the Biden administration, North Korean leader Kim’s powerful sister earlier this month warned the United States to “refrain from causing a stink” if it wants to “sleep in peace” for the next four years.
Kim Yo Jong’s statement was issued when Blinken and Defense Minister Lloyd Austin arrived in Asia to talk to US allies Japan and South Korea about North Korea and other regional issues.
Relations between the United States and North Korea, once hailed as potentially promising after former President Donald Trump’s three meetings with Kim, have been tense without any significant contact for more than a year.
The last personal talks between senior officials from the two countries were held in Sweden in October 2019 and Biden’s administration to resume a dialogue has been rejected since February.
Since Trump’s first meeting with Kim in Singapore in 2018, the North has not conducted nuclear or long-range missile tests, although analysts believe they have gone ahead with their programs on both. And the north has not given up short- and medium-range missiles.
North Korean officials have not been in contact with US government officials for more than a year, and they span two administrations, stated one of the leading authorities.
Biden administration officials have consulted with Trump administration officials who attended the Singapore talks and a second meeting between Kim and Trump in February 2019. Some Trump officials in their talks with the Biden team speculated that the effect of the coronavirus pandemic would be a broader review of engagement with The United States could explain the Nordic radio silence, according to an official.
Kim is in the midst of the toughest crisis in his nine-year rule because the already troubled economy was hit by pandemic-related border closures, which have sharply reduced Nordic foreign trade. The Nordic region also faced a series of natural disasters last summer, not to mention the persistent US-led sanctions.
But officials in the Biden administration added that the Biden administration does not see this weekend’s missile test as closing the door on such calls.
National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan is also scheduled to meet next week with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts for talks on the way forward with North Korea.