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‘Business as usual’: North Korea missiles launch ‘not provocation’, says Biden

WASHINGTON DC, USA: US President Joe Biden has said he does not consider North Korea’s launch of short-range missiles – the first since he took office – a provocation. Biden also added that defence officials called it “business as usual”.

North Korea fired non-ballistic cruise missiles, which do not flout UN Security Council resolutions, over the weekend.

The incident happened after Pyongyang criticised the US and South Korea for conducting joint military exercises. It also comes as Biden’s administration continues to attempt to make contact with North Korea.

The launch, originally reported by US media, has since been confirmed by US officials and the South Korean defence ministry.

South Korea said two cruise missiles were fired into the Yellow Sea early on Sunday from Onchon in North Korea.

Responding to reporters’ questions on Tuesday night, Biden said: “We have learned that nothing has changed.”

When asked if he considered the test a provocation, he said: “No, according to the Defence Department, it’s business as usual. There’s no new wrinkle in what they did.”

UN Security Council resolutions, which have resulted in strict sanctions on North Korea, have only banned Pyongyang from firing threatening weapons such as ballistic missiles.

North Korea fired two missiles off its west coast over the weekend in its first publicly known weapons test since Joe Biden took office as president in January, officials in the United States said on Tuesday, as the administration said it remained open to talks with Pyongyang.

Two senior officials from the Biden administration told reporters in a briefing call that the North Korean activity involved weapons systems that were not covered by UN Security Council testing bans.

During a visit to Ohio, Biden told reporters, referring to the North Korean government: “We have learned that nothing much has changed.”

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said on Wednesday that North Korea had fired two cruise missiles off its west coast on Sunday, adding that it had been tracking the test.

“What they fired were cruise missiles, not ballistic missiles, and they were detected by our assets,” a source in the defence ministry was quoted as saying by Yonhap news agency.

The tests are the first since July last year when Pyongyang fired what were also thought to be cruise missile, and took place as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrapped up a visit to northeast Asia promising to work towards the North’s denuclearisation.

Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump boasted of his ability to work with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and the two men met three times in 2018 and 2019. Trump’s summitry failed to achieve a breakthrough, however, as talks collapsed over the US calls for Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons and North Korea’s demands for an end to sanctions.

Officials in the US, which is reviewing North Korean policy and South Korea appeared to downplay the latest tests, which have not yet been acknowledged by the North.

Offers to resume talks have so far been rebuffed with Kim Jo Yong, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s powerful sister, last week warning the US against “causing a stink” if it wanted peace. The North has also expressed anger at joint drills involving US and South Korean troops.

North Korea has often complained about joint drills between US and South Korean forces even though this year’s exercises were largely online