(ATTN: UPDATES with remarks from a Pentagon spokesperson in last 6 paras)
By Byun Duk-kun
WASHINGTON, Jan. 14 (Yonhap) — The United States condemned North Korea’s latest missile launch on Friday amid growing tension between the two countries following multiple missile tests from the North during the last week.
North Korea yet again fired what appeared to be two short-range ballistic missiles on Friday afternoon (Seoul time). These short-range missile tests follow on the heels of two separate test launches of what Pyongyang claims to be a new hypersonic missile since last Wednesday.
“The United States condemns the DPRK’s ballistic missile launch. This launch is in violation of multiple U.N. Security Council Resolutions and poses a threat to the DPRK’s neighbors and the international community,” a spokesperson for the Department of State said, referring to North Korea by its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“We remain committed to a diplomatic approach to the DPRK and call on them to engage in dialogue. Our commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea and Japan remains ironclad,” the official added.
The U.S. earlier said it has proposed additional U.N. Security Council sanctions against North Korea for its two purported hypersonic missile tests this month while also slapping its own sanctions on six North Korean representatives based in Russia and China for illegally procuring materials for the North’s weapons programs.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. will use “every appropriate tool” to address North Korea’s ballistic missile programs.
Shortly before its latest missile launch, a spokesperson for the North Korean foreign ministry said the country will be forced to take “stronger and certain reaction” if the U.S. chooses to take a confrontational stance.
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said the U.S. was working closely with South Korea to maintain their joint defense readiness.
“We’re continuing to work very closely with our ROK allies to make sure the alliance remains capable and strong and vibrant,” he said in a press briefing, while declining a direct comment on whether the “tool” mentioned earlier by Blinken may include military options.
“And as, I think, we have made clear, we’re willing to sit down and talk about these issues with North Korea,” he added, noting Pyongyang has so far shown no interest in dialogue.
“From a Department of Defense (DoD) perspective … we already have security commitments on the peninsula, and so our job here at DoD is to make sure that we are able to meet those commitments to the best of our ability.”
Kirby also declined to comment when asked if the latest North Korea missile launch again involved a hypersonic missile.
“We’re still conducting an Intel assessment of it. We’re not at the point where we’re willing unable to go beyond classifying as a ballistic missile launch,” he said.