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March 25, 2021 - North Korea launched two ballistic missiles into the sea near Japan, the first such tests since U.S. President Joe Biden took office, fuelling tension ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.
Japanese and South Korean officials said the missiles flew about 450 kilometres (280 miles) at an altitude of around 100km, a trajectory suggesting they were similar to nuclear-capable short-range ballistic missiles.
“These missile launches, the first in roughly a year, pose a threat to the peace and security of our country and the region,” Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said. “We’re determined to work closely with the U.S., South Korea and other related countries to fully protect the people.”
Under Donald Trump’s administration, the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, tested 57 missiles, including at least five Intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) capable of reaching the United States.
In April 2018, Kim declared North Korea would cease ICBM and nuclear tests in the lead-up to a summit with Trump. As diplomacy with the U.S. stalled, North Korea began to unwind its moratorium.
Missile tests since May 2019 have all been of new smaller, solid-fuelled models to verify that they worked. North Korea’s intermediate-range ballistic missiles and ICBMs are all liquid-fuelled systems, which can only be fuelled right before their flight, costing precious time in a potential conflict.
The launch serves as a reminder that Kim’s nuclear arsenal remains among Biden’s most significant foreign policy challenges.
Kim has conducted tests of 112 missiles and three nuclear weapons since taking power in December 2011.