North Korea fires ballistic missiles: What it means for US President Joe Biden and nuclear negotiations

Kim Jong-un has increased pressure on Washington over stalled nuclear negotiations by launching two ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan

North Korea has fired ballistic missiles into the sea, according to the US and South Korea.

It is the first time such a test has been carried out since Joe Biden became President in January and increases pressure on Washington over stalled nuclear negotiations.

When did North Korea launch the missiles

TV screens showing a news report about North Korea's missilesTV screens showing a news report about North Korea's missiles
TV screens showing a news report about North Korea's missiles

Two missiles were fired at around 7.06am and 7.25am, local time, from an area on the North's eastern coast, according to South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff.

They flew 279 miles before landing in the Sea of Japan.

A senior US official said initial assessments also suggested that North Korea had fired two short-range ballistic missiles.

What the international community said

The launches have been condemned by both Japan and South Korea.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said the launches threaten "peace and safety in Japan and the region" and that Tokyo would closely coordinate with Washington and Seoul about the North's testing activities.

South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong, after meeting his Russian counterpart in Seoul, expressed "deep concern" over the launches and urged the North to uphold its commitments for peace.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called for a swift resumption of dialogue to resolve the stand-off with North Korea.

US Indo-Pacific Command spokesman, Captain Mike Kafka, said the US military was aware of the missiles and was monitoring the situation while closely consulting with allies.

North Korea’s recent history of missile launches

North Korea has a history of testing new US administrations with missile launches and other provocations aimed at forcing the Americans back to the negotiating table.

Still, Thursday's launches were a measured provocation compared to the nuclear and intercontinental missile tests in 2017 that inspired war fears before the North shifted toward diplomacy with the Trump administration in 2018.

Analysts have predicted the North will gradually dial up its weapons displays to increase its bargaining power as it angles to get back into stalled talks aimed at leveraging nuclear weapons for badly needed economic benefits.

Negotiations over the North's nuclear programme faltered after the collapse of Kim Jong Un's second summit with former President Donald Trump in February 2019, when the US rejected North Korean demands for major sanctions relief in exchange for a partial surrender of their nuclear capabilities.

The North has so far ignored the Biden administration's efforts to engage, saying it will not take part in meaningful talks unless Washington abandons its "hostile" policies.

Related topics: