U.S. intelligence agencies believe that North Korea launched two short-range missiles to secretly test components of an intercontinental ballistic missile systems in what senior administration officials called "a serious escalation."
On February 26, North Korea conducted two missile tests. The missile tests, which were conducted on February 26th and March 4th respectively, did not attract much attention in the United States as the missiles didn't appear to be capable of hitting North America. This is significant as North Korea hasn't tested-launched an ICBM in the past year. This is considered more dangerous than a test-launch of an ICBM from North Korea in 2017.
"The United States decided that this information would be made public and shared with our allies and partners. We prioritize strategic risk reduction and believe strongly that the international community must speak out against further development of such weapons from the DPRK." The senior official spoke to reporters on Thursday using an initialism for North Korea's Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
Official noted that neither of the recent launches "demonstrated ICBM capability or range," but he stated that they were likely to be used to test elements of the new system before the DPRK conducts a full-range launch, which they may attempt to mask as a space launch. These tests are strongly condemned by the United States.
The official responded that the U.S. forces in Pacific increased surveillance and reconnaissance activities in Yellow Sea and had ordered an "enhanced readiness” among missile defense forces.
He stated that the Treasury Department would announce new sanctions Friday to "help prevent the DPRK access foreign technology and items that could enable it advance prohibited weapon programs."
The official stated that there would be more actions in the days ahead. These actions are meant to show the DPRK that illegal and destabilizing actions have consequences. The international community will not accept such actions as normal and, most importantly for the DPRK, diplomatic negotiations are the only way forward.
This week's worldwide threats assessment showed that intelligence analysts believe North Korea's recent string of missile launches could signal a return to nuclear bomb and intercontinental missile testing. This was after NBC News reported Monday, that U.S-based analysts claimed commercial satellite imagery showed construction at North Korea’s nuclear test site. It had been closed since 2018.
Although the Biden administration has not commented about the new construction, the official said that the missile launches were "a brazen violation" of several United Nations Security Council resolutions. He also stated that the missile launches "needlessly increase tensions and threaten to destabilize the security situation within the region." All countries are urged to condemn these violations.
According to the official, it was not clear why North Korea wanted to conceal the test of the missile system. This appears to be a departure from its previous practice of flaunting new weapons.
The official said that the DPRK had tried to conceal these escalatory steps, unlike its previous tests. There could have been many reasons for this, including the desire to conceal their ongoing advancements in their ballistic missile program.
The Biden administration offered to speak to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's government, without any conditions.
The senior official stated that President Biden has made it clear that he would be open to meeting with Kim Jong Un if there was a serious agreement. This agreement must be based on working-level negotiations. "The DPRK continues not to respond."
A 2018 South Korean intelligence assessment stated that North Korea was equipped with 60 nuclear weapons. U.S. officials claim they have added many more since then. Some U.S. officials believe that it has missiles capable of carrying a warhead to America.
An effort to diplomatically reach an agreement with Kim by ex-President Donald Trump involved two face-toface summits.