By LUIS MARTINEZ, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — A U.S. official confirmed Tuesday that North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles sometime over Saturday and Sunday. The firing of the two missiles had been previously unreported.
The Washington Post was first to report that the launches had taken place.
Curiously, neither North Korea nor South Korea had acknowledged the firing of the two missiles as is routinely done by both countries. North Korea typically discloses launches to promote its technological advances, while South Korea provides quick updates to highlight their provocative nature.
This weekend’s tests are the first to occur during the Biden administration, which has acknowledged reaching out to Kim Jong Un’s regime.
“We’ve not yet heard directly from them through diplomatic channels,” Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, told reporters earlier this week. “We have reached out because we believe that diplomacy has to be part of the process of getting to denuclearize North Korea and we remain intent on achieving that goal.”
North Korea had recently complained publicly about a new round of American and South Korean military exercises taking place in South Korea.
Through North Korean state media, Kim’s politically influential sister Kim Jo Yong warned the Biden administration that if it wanted “to sleep in peace” for the next four years “it had better refrain from causing a stink at its first step.”
Ahead of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s visit to South Korea last week, U.S. officials had expressed concerns that North Korea may have been preparing to fire missiles in response to his visit. However, this weekend’s two missile launches took place days after Austin had left South Korea.
Since the 2018 hand-shake agreement that former President Donald Trump reached with Kim, North Korea has not conducted any long-range missile tests. As North Korea resumed testing shorter range ballistic missiles after that agreement, the Trump administration said they did not violate the spirit of the agreement.
However, it is believed that in that time North Korea has progressed with its Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) technology, unveiling a new, large, mobile-launched ICBM in a military parade last October.
“The Kim Jong Un regime has achieved alarming success in its quest to demonstrate the capability to threaten the U.S. homeland with nuclear-armed ICBMs, believing such weapons are necessary to deter U.S. military action and ensure his regime’s survival, Gen. Glen VanHerck, the commander of U.S. Northern Command, told Congress last week in written testimony.
VanHerck described North Korea’s new ICBM as further increasing the risk posed to the United States.
“The North Korean regime has also indicated that it is no longer bound by the unilateral nuclear and ICBM testing moratorium announced in 2018, suggesting that Kim may begin flight testing an improved ICBM design in the near future,” said VanHerck.
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