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Kim Jong-un 'fires missiles' in North Korea's latest challenge

Kim Jong-un has issued his first challenge to US President Joe Biden as North Korea fired two short-range test missiles.

Two US state officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the intelligence, said on Tuesday (local time) the missiles were fired over the weekend.

The launches, which were first reported by the Washington Post, came after North Korea declined to engage with repeated behind-the-scenes US diplomatic overtures by President Biden's administration.

The Pentagon declined to comment.

The firing of the missiles comes a week after US intelligence suspected North Korea was preparing its first weapons test since Biden's inauguration.

Kim Jong-un stands and claps.
North Korea dictator Kim Jong-un has not responded to outreach from the Biden adminisation. Source: AP

Bruce Klingner, a senior research fellow at think tank The Heritage Foundation, told CNN North Korea had previously launched missiles after new administrations took power in the US and South Korea.

Missiles were fired by North Korea in 2017 after former president Donald Trump took office as well as 2009 when Barack Obama was inaugurated.

"The idea was to 'train them like a dog', a North Korean defector told me," Mr Klingner told CNN.

"So history would indicate they'd do something in the first few months of a Biden administration as well."

Before the missiles were fired, Mr Klingner said if North Korea took that action it would be "perfectly predictable".

North Korea's fierce warning to US

The sister of the North Korean dictator, Kim Yo Jong, issued a statement directed at the Biden administration last week warning the US to "refrain from causing a stink" if it wants to "sleep in peace" for the next four years.

Kim Yo Jong’s statement was issued as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin arrived in Asia to talk with US allies Japan and South Korea about North Korea and other regional issues.

“We take this opportunity to warn the new US administration trying hard to give off (gun) powder smell in our land,” she said.

“If it wants to sleep in peace for coming four years, it had better refrain from causing a stink at its first step.”

A man watches a television news broadcast showing file footage of a North Korean missile test.
A man watches a broadcast showing file footage of a North Korean missile test. Source: Getty

Kim Yo Jong, a senior official who handles inter-Korean affairs, also criticised the US and South Korea for holding military exercises.

She also said the North would consider abandoning a 2018 bilateral agreement on reducing military tensions and abolish a decades-old ruling party unit tasked to handle inter-Korean relations if it no longer had to cooperate with the South.

US attempts to reach out to North Korea

North Korea is also yet to respond to diplomatic outreach from Biden, a senior administration official said last week.

The disclosure of the so-far unsuccessful US attempts to initiate discussions raises questions around how Biden will address mounting tensions with Pyongyang over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 23: U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks about Monday's mass shooting in Boulder, Colorado, in the State Dining Room at the White House on March 23, 2021 in Washington, DC. Ten people were shot and killed at the King Soopers grocery store in Boulder and police have charged Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa of Arvada, a suburb of Denver, with first-degree murder. This massacre comes less than a week after another mass shooting killed eight people — six of them women of Asian descent — at three spas in the Atlanta area.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Joe Biden's administration has attempted to initiate discussions with North Korea. Source: Getty

The senior Biden administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, offered few details on the diplomatic push but said there had been efforts to reach out to the North Korean government "through several channels starting in mid-February, including in New York (at North Korea's mission to the United Nations)".

"To date, we have not received any response from Pyongyang," the official told Reuters.

The Biden administration has so far been cautious in publicly describing its approach to North Korea, saying it is carrying out a comprehensive policy review following former President Donald Trump's unprecedented engagement with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Trump's efforts failed to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.

During his election campaign, Biden described Kim as a "thug" and said he would only meet him "on the condition that he would agree that he would be drawing down his nuclear capacity".

With Reuters and AP

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