Pyongyang launched two missiles just days after top US defence and diplomatic officials paid a visit to the city, according to the White House and Seoul. It was Pyongyang’s first launch since Joe Biden’s inauguration. After the new US administration took office, the nuclear-armed North has been biding its time, not even formally recognising its presence until last week.
After a turbulent relationship between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, which went from insults and threats of war to a diplomatic bromance and numerous talks, but no tangible steps toward denuclearization, Washington is rethinking its approach to North Korea.
Two short-range non-ballistic missiles were launched on Sunday, according to US administration officials, but they were dismissed as “routine” military exercises that would not stymie Washington’s attempts to engage Pyongyang. They appeared to be cruise missiles, according to South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff, and were launched over the Yellow Sea, also known as the West Sea in Korea, and therefore towards China rather than US ally Japan.
The launches came days after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin visited Tokyo and Seoul to address alliance and security problems in the area, with North Korea seen as a central threat. However, the North’s response was unusually restrained, as it has yet to make an announcement.