North Korea fires two short-range missiles

·2-min read

North Korea has test-fired two short-range missiles over the weekend, US officials say, in what one expert suggested was a relatively mild move as Pyongyang lobbies for a relaxation of sanctions over its nuclear and missile programs.

The two US officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, declined to offer details on the launches, which came after North Korea refused to engage with repeated behind-the-scenes US diplomatic overtures by President Joe Biden's administration since mid-February.

The Pentagon declined comment on the test, which was first reported by the Washington Post. North Korea's mission to the United Nations in New York did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Jenny Town, director of 38 North, a US-based website that tracks North Korea, said that if North Korea had conducted a missile test, the move was "pretty mild".

A top US general last week had warned of the near-term possibility of a far more provocative move: a decision by North Korea to begin flight testing an improved design for its inter-continental ballistic missiles.

Such a move would sharply increase tension between the United States and North Korea.

"My guess is that it has more to do with the joint exercises than anything else. This kind of testing around the military exercises is pretty common," Town said, referring to joint US-South Korean military exercises.

The drills earlier this month unnerved Pyongyang even though they were scaled back this year to become computer-simulated drills.

A top North Korean diplomat last week said the country would never answer US diplomatic overtures until Washington dropped hostile policies and called for sanctions relief.

North Korea maintained and developed its nuclear and ballistic missile programs throughout 2020 in violation of international sanctions, helping fund them with some $US300 million ($A393 million) stolen through cyber hacks, according to independent UN sanctions monitors.

North Korea has been subjected to UN sanctions since 2006.