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North Korea set to carry out 'show of strength' ballistic missile tests as US officials arrive in South Korea for security talks

 North Korea is preparing to carry out its first missile test since President Joe Biden came to office as a show of strength to the US.

The head of the US military's Northern Command said flight testing for an improved design of an intercontinental ballistic missile will begin 'in the near future'.

The North Korean regime frequently tests new US presidents within the first months of their administration with a display of military might. 

Meanwhile regional experts said tests would not be a surprise as the US and South Korea conduct simulated military exercises near the border.

The US is bracing itself for a North Korean show of strength with its first weapons test since President Joe Biden came to office

The US is bracing itself for a North Korean show of strength with its first weapons test since President Joe Biden came to office

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong pose for photos before their meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Seoul on Wednesday

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong pose for photos before their meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Seoul on Wednesday

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and his South Korean counterpart Suh Wook take part in a welcoming ceremony in Seoul on Wednesday

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and his South Korean counterpart Suh Wook take part in a welcoming ceremony in Seoul on Wednesday

A Pyongyang military parade in October showed off new intercontinental ballistic missiles which could be tested soon

A Pyongyang military parade in October showed off new intercontinental ballistic missiles which could be tested soon

Such a move would sharply increase tensions between Pyongyang and Washington after a lull since the fiery rhetoric between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un. 

The fears come as Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin visit South Korea to discuss security in the region. 


The North Korean leader has called for continued production of nuclear weapons for his arsenal and launched a series of smaller missiles in recent months and unveiled what would be North Korea´s largest ICBM yet at an October parade.

Air Force General Glen VanHerck told the Senate Armed Services Committee that Pyongyang's 'considerably larger and presumably more capable' ICBM further increased the threat to the United States.  

The US general also noted that Kim released himself from a moratorium on testing over a year ago.

A South Korean army's K1A2 tank moves during a military exercise in Paju, South Korea, near the border with North Korea, on Wednesday

A South Korean army's K1A2 tank moves during a military exercise in Paju, South Korea, near the border with North Korea, on Wednesday

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and defense secretary Lloyd Austin are visiting South Korea to discuss security in the region

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and defense secretary Lloyd Austin are visiting South Korea to discuss security in the region

Regional experts said weapons tests would not be a surprise as the US and South Korea conduct simulated military exercises near the border

Regional experts said weapons tests would not be a surprise as the US and South Korea conduct simulated military exercises near the border

'The North Korean regime has also indicated that it is no longer bound by the unilateral nuclear and ICBM testing moratorium announced in 2018, suggesting that Kim Jong Un may begin flight testing an improved ICBM design in the near future,' VanHerck said in his written testimony.

The White House confirmed a Reuters report on Monday that it has sought to reach out to North Korea but had received no response, extending a chill in relations that began during Donald Trump's administration.

After the White House remarks, North Korean state news reported that the sister of the North Korean leader, Kim Yo Jong, criticized the Biden Administration for ongoing military drills in South Korea.

She said in a statement carried by state news agency KCNA: 'We take this opportunity to warn the new US administration trying hard to give off [gun] powder smell in our land. 

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

The sister of the North Korean leader, Kim Yo Jong, criticized the Biden Administration for ongoing military drills in South Korea

The sister of the North Korean leader, Kim Yo Jong, criticized the Biden Administration for ongoing military drills in South Korea

Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives at Osan Air Base Wednesday for talks with South Korea

Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives at Osan Air Base Wednesday for talks with South Korea

Secretary of State Blinken arrives in South Korea
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Asked about Kim Yo Jong's statement during a news conference in Tokyo, Blinken said that he was familiar with the comments and was more interested in hearing from allies and partners.

Blinken said that Washington reached out to North Korea through several channels starting in mid-February, but it hasn't received any response. 

He said the Biden administration is looking forward to completing its policy review on North Korea in coming weeks and was looking both at possible 'additional pressure measures' and 'diplomatic paths.'

The joint US-South Korean springtime military drill begun last week was limited to computer simulations because of the coronavirus risk, as well as the ongoing efforts to engage with the North.

Defense Department spokesman Lt. Col. Martin Meiners told CNN: 'We don't comment on intelligence matters. 

North Korean Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missiles are shown off during a military parade

North Korean Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missiles are shown off during a military parade

North Korea displays ballistic missiles at anniversary military parade
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'North Korea's continued development of ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction represent a threat to U.S. interests and the security of our allies and partners. 

'In the near term, DoD, in close coordination with allies and partners, will seek to deter negative behavior from North Korea.'

North Korea often provokes new administrations with a show of strength, and conducted tests in 2017 shortly after Trump came to office and in 2009 after Barack Obama's inauguration.

President Biden's top diplomat and defense secretary arrived in South Korea on Wednesday where they will aim to get North Korea back to the table after the deadlock in nuclear negotiations.

It has been more than two years since talks stalled between the US and North Korea, and some experts say Washington and its allies should settle for a deal that would freeze Kim's nuclear program in return for relaxing sanctions - and possibly leave Pyongyang's already manufactured nuclear weapons in place.

Austin and Blinken are meeting their South Korean counterparts for separate talks Wednesday and a joint 'two plus two' meeting Thursday, the first such contact between the two countries in five years. 

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin walks with United States Forces Korea commander Gen. Robert B. Abrams on Wednesday

 Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin walks with United States Forces Korea commander Gen. Robert B. Abrams on Wednesday

Shim Beomchul, an analyst with the Seoul-based Korea Research Institute for National Strategy, said he expects the Biden administration to pursue a deal with North Korea that resembles a 2015 accord that froze Iran's nuclear program in return for lifting sanctions.

While the United States won't likely give up its long-term commitment to denuclearizing North Korea, rolling back the country's nuclear capabilities to zero is not a realistic near-term diplomatic goal, he said.

Trump blew up that 2015 Obama administration deal in favor of what he called maximum pressure against Iran, and the Biden government is trying to resurrect it.

In an op-ed in the New York Times in 2018, Blinken, then a managing director of the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement, argued that the best deal the US could reach with North Korea 'more than likely will look like what Barack Obama achieved with Iran.' 

He said that an interim agreement 'would buy time to negotiate a more comprehensive deal, including a minutely sequenced road map that will require sustained diplomacy. That's the approach Mr. Obama took with Iran.'

Other experts say an Iran-style deal won´t work for North Korea. Iran hasn't built any bomb, but North Korea has already manufactured dozens. 

They say North Korea, which has a history of derailing agreements with its vehement rejection of verification processes, won't find any reason to denuclearize when some of the most painful sanctions are lifted.

'Everyone can say easily that (settling for) a nuclear freeze would allow North Korea to preserve its existing nukes. But I ask them what other options do they have' to realize North Korea's denuclearization, said Kim Yeol Soo, an analyst with South Korea's Korea Institute for Military Affairs. 

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