North Korea has berated the US for imposing fresh sanctions against the country over its latest missile tests and warned of stronger and more explicit action if Washington maintains its “confrontational stance”.
In a statement carried by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), an unidentified foreign ministry spokesperson defended the North’s recent launches of purported hypersonic missiles as a righteous exercise of self-defence.
The spokesperson said the new sanctions underscore hostile US intent aimed at “isolating and stifling” the North despite Washington’s repeated calls for Pyongyang to resume diplomacy that has stalled over disagreements about sanctions relief and nuclear disarmament steps.
The Biden administration on Wednesday imposed sanctions on five North Koreans over their roles in obtaining equipment and technology for the North’s missile programs in its response to the North’s latest missile test this week.
The announcement by the Treasury Department came just hours after North Korea said leader Kim Jong Un oversaw a successful test of a hypersonic missile on Tuesday that he claimed would greatly increase the country’s nuclear “war deterrent”.
The North Korean spokesperson accused the US of maintaining a “gangster-like” stance, saying that the North’s development of the new missile is part of its efforts to modernise its military and does not target any specific country or threaten the security of its neighbours.
“Nevertheless, the US is intentionally escalating the situation even with the activation of independent sanctions, not content with referring (North Korea’s) just activity to the UN Security Council,” the spokesperson said.
Tuesday’s test was North Korea’s second demonstration of its purported hypersonic missile in a week. The country in recent months has been ramping up tests of new, potentially nuclear-capable missiles designed to overwhelm missile defence systems in the region, as it continues to expand its military capabilities amid a freeze in diplomacy with the US.
Hypersonic weapons, which fly at speeds in excess of Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound, could pose a crucial challenge to missile defence systems because of their speed and manoeuvrability.
The Biden administration has said it is willing to resume talks with North Korea at any time without preconditions.
But North Korea has so far rejected the idea of open-ended talks, saying the US must first withdraw its “hostile policy”, a term Pyongyang mainly uses to describe the sanctions and joint US-South Korea military drills.
In an interview with MSNBC, Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the North’s latest tests “profoundly destabilising” and said the US was deeply engaged at the UN and with key partners, including allies South Korea and Japan, on a response.