North Korea's Kim Jong Un breaks ground for huge apartment project

North Korea's Kim Jong Un breaks ground for huge apartment project”

North Korea has test-fired two short-range missiles over the weekend, USA officials say, in what one expert suggested was a relatively mild move as Pyongyang lobbies for a relaxation of sanctions over its nuclear and missile programs.

North Korea conducted a short-range missile test over the weekend, the first such launch since President Biden's inauguration two months ago.

The launches followed joint exercises by the US and South Korean militaries earlier this month and came just days after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin visited Tokyo and Seoul to discuss alliance and security issues in the region, with the North seen as a central threat.

North Korea maintained and developed its nuclear and ballistic missile programs throughout 2020 in violation of global sanctions, helping fund them with some $US300 million ($A393 million) stolen through cyber hacks, according to independent United Nations sanctions monitors.

Biden himself told reporters the missile tests were not a provocation. One of the Biden administration officials on Tuesday's call characterized the conversations as "polite and respectful", saying "they helped us understand what some of the contours and challenges that they'd faced" were.

Initial outreach from Washington to Pyongyang has turned up empty, but United States officials are hopeful they can reconnect, while working in coordination with allies Japan and South Korea.

The senior official said that Biden administration officials had reached out to nearly all officials who have been in contact with North Korea since the 90s, including Trump administration officials who were involved in former President Donald Trump's three face-to-face meetings with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

South Korean lawmaker Ha Tae-keung said in a Facebook posting that he was told by agency officials from Seoul's spy agency that the North fired two cruise missiles off its western seaport of Nampo around 6:36 a.m. Sunday.

"If [the U.S.] wants to sleep in peace for the coming four years, it had better refrain from causing a stink at its first step", she added, according to an English translation.

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Kim Yo-jong's statement was issued as Mr Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin arrived in Asia to talk with USA allies Japan and South Korea about North Korea and other regional issues.

Curiously, neither North Korea nor South Korea had acknowledged the firing of the two missiles as is routinely done by both countries.

North Korea carried out a weapons test last weekend, launching two projectiles, according to three U.S. officials. Cruise missiles fly at a lower altitude and slower speed than ballistic missiles, making them easier to intercept, but they are still considered more accurate.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had three high-profile summit meetings with Trump and exchanged a series of letters, but the nuclear-armed state ended talks and said it would not engage further unless the United States drops its hostile policies.

None of the missiles fired were the new long-range ballistic missiles paraded on October 10, the anniversary of the founding of North Korea's communist party, officials told Fox News.

At the start of the Trump administration, tensions between the US and North Korea were high.

But a Biden administration official said the weekend's missile tests do not close the door to future talks.

Mr Kim is in the midst of the toughest crisis of his nine-year rule as the already-troubled economy was hit by coronavirus pandemic-related border closings that have sharply reduced the North's external trade.

The North also faced a spate of natural disasters last summer not to mention the persistent US -led sanctions.

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