North Korea fired short-range missiles this past weekend, just days after the sister of Kim Jong Un threatened the United States and South Korea for holding joint military exercises.
The missile tests were confirmed by two senior Biden administration officials who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity. They come as North Korea has ignored offers from the new administration to resume negotiations, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week pressed China to use its “tremendous influence” to convince North Korea to abandon its nuclear program.
The officials, however, sought to downplay the significance of the missile tests, noting that they are not covered by UN Security Council resolutions meant to deter North Korea from pursuing a nuclear program.
Relations between the US and North Korea, once hailed as potentially promising after former president Donald Trump’s three meetings with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, have been tense with no substantive contact for more than a year.
The last face-to-face talks between senior officials from the two countries were held in Sweden in October 2019 and efforts by the Biden administration to resume a dialogue have been rebuffed 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 pressed ahead with their programs on both. And, the North has not given up short and medium-range missile testing.
North Korean officials have not been in contact with US government officials in more than a year, spanning two administrations, one of the senior administration officials noted.
Biden administration officials have been consulting with Trump administration officials who took part in the Singapore talks as well as a second meeting between Kim and Trump in February 2019.
The official added that the Biden administration does not view the weekend’s missile tests as “closing that door” to such talks.
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