Seoul, South Korea – North Korea responded to President Joe Biden’s criticism of his ballistic missile testing on Saturday, calling his comments provocative and encroaching on the North’s right to self-defense and promising to continually expand its “most military might. complete and most overwhelming “.
The statement released by senior official Ri Pyong Chol came after the North tested two short-range missiles off its east coast on Thursday in the first ballistic launches since Biden took office.
Experts say flight data released by the South Korean military and North Korea’s own description of the tests indicate the North has tested a new solid-fuel weapon designed to evade missile and potentially nuclear defense systems. .
The launches have shown how the North continues to expand its military capabilities as nuclear negotiations with the United States remain stalled. They also underlined the growing threat that these close-range weapons pose to the US allies, South Korea and Japan, which host a total of 80,000 US troops as the core of the US military presence in the region.
Biden was held up as he berated North Korea for the launches, which were a violation of UN sanctions against the North.
“We are consulting our allies and partners,” Biden said at his presidency’s first press conference on Thursday. “And there will be answers if they choose to step up. We will respond accordingly. But I am also ready for some form of diplomacy, but that has to be conditioned on the end result of denuclearization.”
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In comments released by the official central Korean news agency in Pyongyang, Ri said the North expressed “deep apprehension” at Biden’s remarks which “openly revealed his deep hostility towards the DPRK.” DPRK refers to North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Ri said it was “gangster logic” for the United States to criticize the North’s tactical weapons testing as the Americans freely tested intercontinental ballistic missiles and could send their strategic military assets into the region surrounding the North. Korean Peninsula at any time.
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He said the North had no choice but to build an “invincible physical power” to defend itself because the United States and South Korea “constantly pose military threats” and continue their combined military exercises. , which, according to the North, are a repeat of invasion.
“I think the new US administration has clearly made a mistake,” Ri said.
“If the United States continues its rash remarks without thinking about the consequences, it risks being faced with something that is not good.”
Ri, secretary of the ruling Workers’ Party Central Committee and vice-chairman of the party’s Central Military Commission, is a former Air Force commander who was seen as a key figure in the development of the missiles from the North.
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Thursday’s launches follow a statement by North Korean leader Kim’s powerful sister last week, who chided the latest US-South Korean military exercises that ended earlier this month and warned Washington to “refrain from causing a stench” if he wants to “sleep in peace”. for the next four years.
The North has so far ignored the Biden administration’s efforts to reach out, saying it will not engage in meaningful talks as long as Washington persists with “hostile” policies.
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While Pyongyang is used to testing new US administrations with weapons demonstrations aimed at forcing Washington to resume negotiations, Ri said the North Koreans “do not in any way develop weapons to attract the attention of the United States. someone or influence their policy. “
It is unclear how the Biden administration will respond until it concludes its review of the North Korea policy in the coming weeks.
“For Kim Jong Un’s missile man Ri Pyong Chol, calling Biden’s press conference a provocation is essentially a threat that North Korea will respond to the US policy review with more tests,” he said. said Leif-Eric Easley, professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul.
“Pyongyang is implementing a premeditated strategy to advance military capabilities and increase tensions. Ri Pyong Chol has larger tests underway and is trying to maximize the political impact for his missile development money.”
The United States has cut back on exercises with South Korea and has stopped sending nuclear-capable bombers and aircraft carriers since President Donald Trump’s first summit with Kim in 2018, where it issued vague statements about a Korean peninsula free of nuclear weapons without describing when and how it would do so. happen.
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But talks were stalled after the second Kim-Trump meeting in February 2019 collapsed over disagreements over exchanging relief from crippling US sanctions against northern disarmament measures.
Some experts say allies should restore the normal scale and scope of their exercises to develop a response to North Korea’s growing short-range weapon threat, which it continued to test even as it suspended nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile testing.
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