North Korea on Tuesday carried out its first missile test of the year, firing off at least one missile. The test, which CNN called a “short-range projectile” and not a ballistic missile, while others have characterized it as a cruise missile test, represented the first known missile test by North Korea since March of 2020, and the first since President Joseph Biden came into office
Asked by reporters on camera Tuesday about the test, Biden downplayed the events.
In response to a reporter who asked if he considered the test “to be a real provocation by North Korea,” the president answered in the negative.
“No, according to the Defense Department, it’s business as usual,” Biden said, per video posted by CNN. “There’s no new… there’s no wrinkle in what they did.”
When asked if the events will “affect diplomacy at all,” Biden laughed, and then stepped away.
CNN noted that North Korea has traditionally attempted some type of military provocation early on in the tenures of new presidents of both the U.S. and South Korea. Also, Biden is expected to soon announce his administration’s strategy in dealing with North Korea. The Trump Administration made a diplomatic opening to the North Koreans, which resulting in multiple summits between the then-president and Kim Jong-un, but the meetings did not lead to any new agreement, and Kim carried out that missile test last March.
The news of the missile tests follows last week’s visit to Asia by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Tony Blinken, who met with their counterparts in South Korea and Japan, and all indications were that North Korea and its nuclear ambitions were a major topic of discussion in those meetings.
CNN, citing intelligence sources, had reported last week that there were indications that North Korea was preparing just such a missile test. And the U.S. and South Korea carried out military exercises last week, the type of thing often seen as a provocation by the Kim regime.
“We are under no illusions about the difficulty this task presents to us. We have a long history of disappointment in diplomacy with North Korea. It’s defied expectations of Republican and Democratic administrations alike,” a senior administration official told CNBC. That official also said that officials have consulted with former Trump Administration officials on North Korea.
Another analyst reacted to North Korea’s missile test.
“This type of saber-rattling is not threatening, but rather is intended to get the attention of the Biden administration,” wrote retired Lt. Col. Daniel Davis, now of Defense Priorities, said, per CNBC.
“There’s an opening to negotiate for freezes and potentially rollbacks in exchange for limited sanctions relief. But unless Washington is willing to make such trade-offs and normalize relations, expect Kim to continue developing weapons and testing them.”
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.