SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – North Korea confirmed on Friday that it had tested a new guided missile, as President Joe Biden warned of the consequences if Pyongyang escalated tensions amid stalled nuclear negotiations.
North Korea’s Central News Agency said the two “new-type tactical guided projectiles” accurately hit the target off the east coast on Thursday. Photos on the website of North Korea’s main Rodong Sinmun newspaper showed a missile taking off from a transport-mountable launcher amid bright flames.
KCNA quoted senior official Ri Pyong Chol, who oversaw the test, as saying that the development of the new weapon “is of great importance in strengthening the country’s military power and deterring all kinds of existing military threats on the Korean peninsula.”
Japanese officials said both weapons tested Thursday were ballistic missiles, which are prohibited by UN Security Council resolutions. According to South Korean officials, North Korea fired two more missiles on Sunday, but they were likely cruise missiles, which are not banned.
The test shots were North Korea’s first major provocation since Biden took office in January. Some experts say that North Korea aimed to pressure the Biden administration to increase its influence in future talks.
“We are consulting with our allies and partners,” Biden said at a news conference Thursday. And there will be answers if they decide to climb. We will respond accordingly. But I am also prepared for some form of diplomacy, but it has to be conditional on the end result of denuclearization. ”
The United States has called for a meeting of the UN Security Council committee monitoring sanctions against North Korea, and it will be held behind closed doors on Friday morning. The committee includes representatives from all 15 nations on the council.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who is seeking better ties with North Korea, issued a rare criticism of Pyongyang on Friday over the launches.
“I know very well that our people are very concerned about the North Korean missile launches yesterday,” Moon said during a military ceremony. “The time has come for North Korea, South Korea and the United States to make efforts to (resume) the talks. An act that hinders the atmosphere of dialogue is not desirable at all. “
Talks between the United States and North Korea to curb North Korea’s nuclear ambitions have been in limbo for about two years due to disputes over the sanctions imposed by the United States on North Korea. In January, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said he would expand his arsenal of weapons and develop his country’s military capabilities to deal with what he called American hostility.
KCNA said the new weapon’s warhead weight has been improved to 2.5 tons (5,510 pounds). He said Thursday’s test also confirmed the reliability of the weapon’s improved version of the solid-fuel engine, which would increase the missiles’ mobility, and its maneuverable low-altitude flight.
South Korean observers said the weapon is likely an improved North Korean version of the Russian-made Iskander, a nuclear-capable short-range missile designed to fly at low altitudes and perform in-flight guidance adjustments. They said it has a better chance of evading missile defense systems in South Korea.
Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said on Friday that the North Korean weapon is a new type of ballistic missile that was displayed during a military parade in Pyongyang in January. Kishi said Japan will strengthen its missile defense system to “ensure peace and security.”
Associated Press writers Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations and Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo contributed to this report.