North Korea conducts Biden Presidency’s first weapons test

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North Korea tested a “short range system” over the weekend, its first known weapons test during the Biden presidency, senior administrators confirmed Tuesday. While the officials did not elaborate on the types of tests, citing classification issues, they said it was “normal” activity for North Korea and the measures were not included in United Nations Security Council resolutions restricting the country’s nuclear program.

The weekend’s activity does not close the door to any diplomatic engagement with North Korea, officials said. They stressed that the US is “on the march to show clearly that we are ready to continue engagement in Northeast Asia with key partners, and indeed with North Korea”.

However, a senior government official said there had been “no active dialogue” with North Korea despite the US making “multiple attempts” to contact them over the past year, both during the Biden and Trump administrations.

Since the meeting of former President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Vietnam in 2019, there has been “very little dialogue or interaction” between the US and North Korea, the official said. This meeting was canceled and the two men failed to reach an agreement on how to continue pushing for Mr. Trump’s stated goal of ridding North Korea of ​​its nuclear weapons.

A few months after the Vietnam talks collapsed, Mr Trump tweeted, “If Chairman Kim of North Korea sees this, I would meet him at the border / DMZ just to shake his hand and say hello (?)!” prior to his trip to Osaka, Japan, for the G20 summit.

A few days later, Mr Trump became the first seated US President to step on North Korean soil as he stepped into the demilitarized zone that divides the Korean peninsula. At the DMZ, Mr. Trump hailed his “great relationship” with the North Korean leader and invited Kim to the White House to continue the talks.

The Biden administration has had extensive consultations with former Trump administration officials “at the highest level” in the White House and the State Department for North Korea, the senior official said. They described the conversations as “polite, respectful and very helpful to us”.

National security adviser Jake Sullivan will meet with national security advisors from Japan and South Korea later this week. The senior officials said the government was in the “final stages” of a policy review of North Korea.

“We are under no illusions about the difficulties this task presents,” said a senior official, referring to the ongoing diplomatic tensions between Japan and North Korea and US-China relations “which are at a complex stage” .

Last week, North Korea severed diplomatic ties with Malaysia and its diplomats left the country over disagreements over the extradition of a North Korean criminal suspect to the United States.

Before President Biden took office in January, North Korea held a parade of ballistic missiles that can be launched from submarines currently under development and other military equipment. During the Labor Party’s eight-day congress in January, Kim also revealed plans to save the country’s economy as it suffered badly from US-led sanctions, border closings related to pandemics and natural disasters that wiped out crops.

Kim sent a card to the North Koreans on New Years Day and thanks the public for their trust and support “in difficult times”.

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