Biden warns North Korea of 'responses' to more missile tests

North Korea fired its first ballistic missiles in a year on March 25, 2021.
North Korea fired its first ballistic missiles in a year on March 25, 2021.PHOTO: REUTERS/KCNA

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - President Joe Biden said he is open to diplomacy with North Korea but warned that recent missile tests violated international rules and could prompt a response if Pyongyang continues.

"There will be responses if they choose to escalate," Biden said Thursday (March 25) at a White House news conference. "We will respond accordingly."

At the request of the US, the UN Security Council will hold an emergency, closed-door meeting on Friday to discuss North Korea, according to a person familiar. That move comes after North Korea fired its first ballistic missiles in a year on Thursday, posing an early challenge to Biden's policy toward the nuclear power.

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said what were likely short-range ballistic missiles landed in waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan.

The US Indo-Pacific Command said it was monitoring the situation and consulting with allies, adding that its commitment to defend Japan and South Korea "remains iron-clad."

Japanese and South Korean officials said the missiles flew about 450km at an altitude of under 100km, a distance and trajectory suggesting they were similar to the nuclear-capable short-range ballistic missiles North Korea tested under the administration of former President Donald Trump.

North Korea said it fired off "a newly developed tactical guided projectile" that "accurately hit the target in the waters 600km off the east coast of Korea," the state's official Korean Central News Agency said in a Friday report. North Korea also released images of the launch on its state media.

Leader Kim Jong Un, who has been on hand for many launches, was touring a new housing development, KCNA said in a separate report.

With the missile test, Kim is following a longstanding playbook of feeling out new US presidents in an effort to put North Korea's interests on the agenda of policy makers in Washington.

The North Korean leader made clear in talks with Trump that he's open to rolling back parts of his nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief, but won't entertain giving up the weapons entirely.