Following two North Korean missile launches which came within the last week, with the Tuesday test being claimed by Pyongyang to have been it’s third ‘successful’ hypersonic projectile test, the Biden administration extended US sanctions on North Korean as well as Russian officials believed involved in Pyongyang’s ballistic missile program.
The fresh Treasury Department sanctions target five individuals responsible for procuring parts for North Korea’s “weapons of mass destruction (WMD)” program, as the statement reads. Further it described the new punitive actions “in line with U.S. efforts to prevent the advancement of the DPRK’s WMD and ballistic missile programs” and which “impede attempts by Pyongyang to proliferate related technologies.”
The Treasury counted “the DPRK’s six ballistic missile launches since September 2021, each of which violated multiple United Nations Security Council Resolutions (UNSCRs).”
Amid completely stalled Washington-Pyongyang talks, which haven’t been a reality since the Trump administration – and as Seoul has recently pushed for the resumption of direct dialogue on denuclearizing the Korean peninsula – US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has lately vowed to use “every appropriate tool” to go after North Korea’s weapons programs, “which constitute a serious threat to international peace and security and undermine the global nonproliferation regime.”
The Wednesday Treasury statement still held out hope for the possibility of “dialogue and diplomacy” with the DPRK; however, the latest missile tests are seen as a direct message to the West that King Jong-un is expanding his arsenal and capability.
ABC News details of Tuesday’s launch which went in the direction of Japan, based on state media sources:
The Korean Central News Agency said Tuesday’s launch involved a hypersonic glide vehicle, which after its release from the rocket booster demonstrated “glide jump flight” and “corkscrew maneuvering” before hitting a sea target 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) away. Photos released by the agency showed a missile mounted with a pointed cone-shaped payload soaring into the sky while leaving a trail of orange flames and Kim watching from a small cabin with top officials, including his sister Kim Yo Jong.
The projectile is believed to have reached Mach 10, alarming intelligence agencies in the West, and which even briefly resulted in an FAA order to ground commercial flights on the US West coast (for an estimated five to seven minutes).
Kim this week hailed the country’s claimed hypersonics program, which officials in the West remain skeptical of – doubting that it’s very far along at all – as part of increasing North Korea’s nuclear “war deterrent”.