US and allies condemn North Korea over missile test ‘provocations’

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends a meeting of the ruling Workers' Party. KNS/Kyodo. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

PYONGYANG, Feb 13, 2022, The Guardian. The top diplomats of Japan, South Korea and the United States declared their unity against North Korea on Saturday after a series of ballistic missile launches by Pyongyang, The Guardian reported.

After a day of meetings in Honolulu, US secretary of state Antony Blinken, South Korean foreign minister Chung Eui-yong, and Japanese foreign minister Hayashi Yoshimasa condemned the series of seven launches as “destabilising” in a joint statement.

Pyongyang needs “to cease its unlawful activities and instead engage in dialogue,” they said.

“The DPRK is in a phase of provocation,” Blinken told a press conference alongside his fellow foreign ministers, using the acronym for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“We continue to work to find ways to hold the DPRK accountable,” he said, citing the most recent sanctions slapped on eight people and entities tied to the North Korean government.

The three diplomats reiterated their commitment to the denuclearisation of the entire Korean Peninsula, and readiness to resume talks with Pyongyang, which has not responded to overtures from the administration of US president Joe Biden in the past year.

“The secretary and foreign ministers emphasised they held no hostile intent towards the DPRK and underscored continued openness to meeting the DPRK without preconditions,” they said in the statement.

North Korea has a long history of using provocations such as missile or nuclear tests to seek international concessions.

The latest tests come as the North’s economy, already battered by decades of mismanagement and crippling US-led sanctions, is hit hard by pandemic border closures.

Many see the tests as an attempt to pressure Biden’s administration into easing the sanctions. The US has shown no willingness to do so without meaningful cuts to the North’s nuclear program, but it has offered open-ended talks.

North Korea has rebuffed US offers to resume diplomacy, saying it won’t return to talks unless Washington drops what it says are hostile polices.

The North bristles at both the sanctions and regular military exercises the US holds with South Korea.

The tests also have a technical component, allowing North Korea to hone its weapons arsenal. One of the missiles recently tested – the Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile – is capable of reaching the US territory of Guam. It was the longest-distance weapon the North has tested since 2017.

Agence France-Presse and Associated Press contributed to this report

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