Monday's missile tests came from Pyongyang airfield
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Although the U.S. administration of President Joe Biden last week imposed a fresh round of sanctions on the North – the first since Biden took office last year – Blinken stressed Saturday that the Biden administration remains "committed to seeking dialogue and diplomacy" and called on Pyongyang to "engage in negotiations."
The Biden administration has repeatedly called on North Korea to return to talks aimed at its denuclearization, saying it is ready to meet counterparts from Pyongyang "anywhere, anytime, without preconditions."
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North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles on Monday from an airport in Pyongyang, according to South Korean military authorities, in apparent defiance of weekend warnings from the United States.
The South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said the two missiles were launched from Sunan Airfield in Pyongyang, and that they flew 380 km (236 miles), reaching a maximum altitude of 42 km.
The test was the fourth in an unusual spate of launches within the last two weeks.
North Korea has conducted three other missile tests since the new year, beginning with two separate tests of what the North claimed were hypersonic glide missiles on Jan. 5 and 10, followed by a test last Friday of tactical guided missiles fired from train cars.
Sunan Airfield, the location of Monday’s missile test, was last used in a test launch of the Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile in 2017, which was personally supervised by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Monday’s test was also detected by neighboring Japan, which condemned it as a threat to regional peace and security.
A JCS official told reporters on the condition of anonymity that the South Korean military believes the North performed the test “to verify the missiles' accuracy,” and that the launches were “aimed at enhancing the accuracy of existing short-range ballistic missiles.”
That assessment was shared by Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi, who told reporters that “the aim of North Korea’s frequent missile launches is to improve their missile technology.”
South Korea’s National Security Council held an emergency meeting after Monday's test, in which members agreed on the need “start dialogue as soon as possible” in order “to restore stability” on the Korean Peninsula, according to the Blue House.
Monday’s test came two days after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned the previous week’s launches as violations of United Nations Security Council resolutions, which forbid the North from developing or testing ballistic missile technologies.
Although the U.S. administration of President Joe Biden last week imposed a fresh round of sanctions on the North – the first since Biden took office last year – Blinken stressed Saturday that the Biden administration remains “committed to seeking dialogue and diplomacy” and called on Pyongyang to “engage in negotiations.”
The Biden administration has repeatedly called on North Korea to return to talks aimed at its denuclearization, saying it is ready to meet counterparts from Pyongyang “anywhere, anytime, without preconditions.”
Although the North has not tested intercontinental ballistic missiles or nuclear weapons since 2017, it has also shown little appetite to engage in talks with the United States since the 2019 Hanoi summit between Kim and then-U.S. President Donald Trump collapsed.
Instead, the North has unveiled and tested a range of new short-range ballistic missiles and hypersonic cruise missiles, which experts say are aimed at thwarting existing missiles defenses.
The North has bristled in response South Korean and U.S. calls to stop its missile tests, citing the “hostile” policy of the United States and its right to self-defense as justification for its weapons tests.
BY MICHAEL LEE [email@example.com]
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