North Korea warns of ‘stronger’ reaction after new U.S. sanctions

SEOUL, Jan. 13 (UPI) — North Korea spoke out Friday against new sanctions imposed by the United States in the wake of a pair of missile tests, calling the moves a “provocation” and warning of a “stronger and certain reaction” if Washington keeps its “confrontational stance.”

In a statement by its foreign ministry, North Korea justified the recent launches of what it claims are hypersonic weapons as a “legitimate exercise of its right to self-defense.”

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The testing “did not target any specific country or force and it did not do any harm to the security of neighboring countries,” the statement, which was carried in state-run Korean Central News Agency, said.

“Nevertheless, the U.S. is intentionally escalating the situation,” the statement continued, calling the new sanctions “an evident provocation and a gangster-like logic.”

North Korea fired ballistic missiles into the sea between Korea and Japan on Jan. 5 and again on Tuesday in what the secretive state said was the final verification of a new hypersonic weapon system.

In response, the United States sanctioned five North Koreans living in China and Russia Wednesday for their involvement in procuring goods for the country’s missile programs.

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Washington is also calling for additional United Nations sanctions over all six of North Korea’s ballistic missile launches since September 2021, each of which was in violation of existing U.N. Security Council resolutions.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said that Tuesday’s missile reached a speed of Mach 10, or 10 times the speed of sound, although the full capabilities of the new North Korean weapon remain unclear.

Hypersonic missiles are highly maneuverable and pose a daunting challenge to existing defense systems, but the JCS said the South Korean military “has the ability to detect and intercept this projectile.”

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday called the recent launches “profoundly destabilizing” and said Pyongyang has not responded to Washington’s overtures to resume dialogue.

“Some months ago, we made clear that we were prepared to engage the North Koreans, to sit down with no preconditions, to see if we could find a way forward with them at the table toward the total denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” Blinken said.

Nuclear negotiations have been at a standstill since a February 2019 summit between then-U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ended without an agreement.

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North Korea claimed Friday that the Biden administration “is trumpeting about diplomacy and dialogue,” but remains “engrossed in its policy for isolating and stifling the DPRK.”

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is the official name of North Korea.

“If the U.S. adopts such a confrontational stance, the DPRK will be forced to take stronger and certain reaction to it,” the statement said.

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