The US and North Korea remain on a collision course after President Joe Biden renewed sanctions against Pyongyang. As a result, North Korea warned it might take “fiercer” military action.

North Korea said in a statement on Monday that it had issued a warning in response to trilateral talks between the US, South Korea, and Japan during the weekend ASEAN summit. During the meeting, US President Joe Biden reaffirmed a commitment to extend deterrence and defend South Korea and Japan with a “full range of capabilities,” including nuclear weapons.

North Korea on Thursday tested a ballistic missile, warning the United States of a “fiercer military counteraction” in response to Washington’s strengthened defense ties with South Korea and Japan, which are at their highest level in decades.

Choe Son-hui
Choe Son-hui (Source: U.S. Department of State/Wikimedia)

Choe Son Hui, North Korea’s foreign minister, said in a statement released by the state-controlled Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) that America’s attempt to strengthen extended deterrence to its allies in the region “is gambling for which it will certainly regret.” Choe also warns that the more dominant US presence becomes in the region, “the fiercer (North Korean) military counteraction will be, in direct proportion to it.”

According to the KCNA statement, the warning was in response to a trilateral meeting between the US, South Korea, and Japan during Sunday’s ASEAN summit. US President Joe Biden guaranteed a “full range of capabilities,” including nuclear weapons, to reinforce extended deterrence and protect South Korea and Japan at the meeting.

Some experts believe that North Korea is capable of producing nuclear missiles. A report from the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) states, “Despite the uncertainty about the number and ability to deliver a functioning nuclear warhead to the United States, some experts at the time asserted that North Korea could do just that.”

“North Korea operates several distinct types of liquid-fueled missiles belonging to the Scud missile family. The Hwasong-5 and Hwasong-6 SRBMs are the North Korean versions of Russian-built Scud B and Scud C missiles, respectively. The US Air Force’s National Air and Space Intelligence Center lists the missiles’ ranges at 300 and 500 kilometers (186 and 311 miles), respectively, and estimates that North Korea has fewer than 100 launchers for the combined Hwasong-5 and -6 arsenal (National Air and Space Intelligence Center 2020, 21).”

“Thus far, neither South Korea nor the United States has confirmed whether or not North Korea has successfully produced a nuclear missile. However, both countries are taking measures to defend themselves against potential attacks.”

Joint Exercises and Missile Launches

South Korea and the United States have been conducting joint military exercises and missile tests this year in response to Pyongyang’s missile tests, raising tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

According to the South Korean Defense Ministry, South Korea and the US reaffirmed their joint defense posture through a missile defense drill on Thursday.

North Korea's ballistic missile
North Korea’s ballistic missile – North Korea Victory Day-2013 (Source: Stefan Krasowski/Wikimedia)

In the early hours of Thursday, the Joint Chiefs of Staff in South Korea said North Korea had fired a short-range ballistic missile from the Wonsan area of Kangwon province at about 10:48 a.m. local time.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff said the missile, which landed in waters off the east coast of the Korean Peninsula, had a flight range of about 240 kilometers (149 miles), an altitude of about 47 kilometers (29 miles), and a top speed of Mach 4 – or four times the speed of sound.

They also said that South Korea’s military has boosted surveillance and is working closely with the United States.

Meanwhile, the Defense Ministry of Japan said that no missiles had fallen on Japanese territory or in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ). However, Tokyo continues “to collect and analyze necessary information and closely monitor North Korean military trends in close cooperation with the United States and South Korea,” said Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno.

According to a CNN count, North Korea has fired a missile every 33 days this year. Ballistic and cruise missiles are included in the tally. In 2020, North Korea tested four missiles, and in 2021, it tested eight.

North Korea may be preparing for an underground nuclear test based on satellite imagery showing activity at the nuclear test site. Such a test would be the country’s first in five years.