North Korea hits back at Biden criticism over missile tests

Pyongyang vowed to expand North Korea ‘most thoroughgoing and overwhelming military power’

The North Korean government has snapped back at US president Joe Biden’s criticism of its ballistic missile tests.

Officials in Pyongyang called the American leader’s comments a provocation and an encroachment on the North’s right to self-defence, and vowed to expand the North’s “most thoroughgoing and overwhelming military power”.

The statement issued by senior official Ri Pyong Chol came after the North tested-fired two short-range missiles off its eastern coast in the first ballistic launches since Mr Biden took office.

Experts say the flight data released by South Korea’s military and North Korea’s own description of the tests indicted that the North tested a new solid-fuel weapon that is designed to evade missile defence systems, and is potentially nuclear-capable.

The launches showed how the North continues to expand its military capabilities while nuclear negotiations with the United States remain stalled.

They also underlined the growing threat such short-range weapons pose to US allies South Korea and Japan, which host a combined 80,000 US troops as the core of America’s military presence in the region.

Mr Biden was restrained as he admonished North Korea for the launches, which were a violation of UN sanctions against the North.

In the first news conference of his presidency last week, Mr Biden said: “We’re consulting with our allies and partners And there will be responses if they choose to escalate. We will respond accordingly.

“But I’m also prepared for some form of diplomacy, but it has to be conditioned upon the end result of denuclearisation.”

In comments carried by Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency, Mr Ri said the North expresses “deep apprehension” over Mr Biden’s remarks that were “openly revealing his deep-seated hostility toward the DPRK”.

DPRK refers to North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Mr Ri said it was “gangster-like logic” for the US to criticise the North’s tactical weapons tests when the Americans are freely testing intercontinental ballistic missiles and could send their strategic military assets to the region surrounding the Korean Peninsula at any time.

He said the North does not have options other than building “invincible physical power” to defend itself because the US and South Korea “constantly pose military threats” and continue with their combined military exercises, which the North claims are an invasion rehearsal.

“I think that the new US administration obviously took its first step wrong,” Mr Ri said.

“If the US continues with its thoughtless remarks without thinking of the consequences, it may be faced with something that is not good.” – AP