The Pentagon has responded to North Korea‘s test launch over the weekend of long-range cruise missiles by expressing military solidarity with Japan and South Korea, asserting in a statement that America’s commitment to defending the two allies is “ironclad.”
The statement circulated late Sunday by U.S. Indo-Pacific Command came amid unease swirling in Seoul and Tokyo over Pyongyang’s firing of the newly developed missiles that officials said are capable of hitting targets more than 930 miles from North Korea.
Japan said it was “extremely concerned” about the launches that occurred Saturday and Sunday. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said Monday at a press conference in Tokyo that the North Korean action would “jeopardize regional peace and security,” according to Japan‘s Kyodo News.
South Korea‘s Joint Chiefs of Staff said it was analyzing the developments based on U.S. and South Korean intelligence, according to The Associated Press, which characterized the launches as the first in months by Pyongyang — underscoring how the regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un continues to expand its military capabilities amid a stalemate in nuclear negotiations with the United States.
Diplomacy with North Korea has been stalled for more than two years, despite ongoing U.S. and South Korean efforts to engage the Kim regime in talks over nuclear and ballistic missile programs that Pyongyang has clandestinely built up for decades in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions.
While cruise missile tests may not technically violate the resolutions, the tests are viewed as a provocation by Washington and set nerves on edge around the region. The South China Morning Post reported that Chinese officials were calling for “restraint” on Monday.
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The launches come as senior U.S., South Korean and Japanese diplomats prepare to meet Tuesday in Tokyo to strategize ways to spur new talks with the North Koreans.
The statement from U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said American officials were monitoring the North Korean activity and “consulting closely with our allies and partners.”
“This activity highlights [North Korea‘s] continuing focus on developing its military program and the threats that [it] poses to its neighbors and the international community,” the statement said. “The U.S. commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea and Japan remains ironclad.”
• This article is based in part on wire service reports.