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North Korea fires missile hours after warning of ‘fiercer’ response

UN GRIDLOCK

North Korea conducted a flurry of launches earlier this month, including a Nov 2 barrage in which it fired 23 missiles – more than during the whole of 2017, the year of “fire and fury” when leader Kim Jong Un traded barbs with then US president Donald Trump.

That blitz came as hundreds of US and South Korean warplanes, including B-1B heavy bombers, participated in joint air drills. Such exercises draw strong reactions from the North, which sees them as rehearsals for an invasion.

Experts say North Korea is seizing the opportunity to conduct banned missile tests, confident of escaping further UN sanctions due to Ukraine-linked gridlock at the United Nations.

China, Pyongyang’s main diplomatic and economic ally, joined Russia in May in vetoing a US-led bid at the UN Security Council to tighten sanctions on North Korea.

Pyongyang has also been under a self-imposed coronavirus blockade since early 2020, which experts say would limit the impact of any additional external sanctions.

Biden pushed China’s Xi to use his influence to rein in North Korea when the pair met on the sidelines of the G20 meeting in Bali, Indonesia.

Washington has responded to North Korea’s sanctions-busting missile tests by extending exercises with the South and deploying a strategic bomber.

“Choe Son Hui’s threatening statement and North Korea’s most recent missile launch are attempts to signal that Pyongyang won’t back down under international pressure,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.

Biden also held talks with his South Korean counterpart Yoon Suk-yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Sunday to discuss ways to address the threat posed by the North.

Easley said it was clear that Biden, Yoon and Kishida had taken “substantive steps on trilateral coordination”, even as Xi ended his Covid-linked isolation with a “relative charm offensive” at the G20 summit.

“At some point, Chinese interests will prefer exerting pressure on Pyongyang rather than face a more strategically united US, South Korea and Japan,” Easley said.

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