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(LEAD) U.S. equally focused on N. Korea as all other threats: Pentagon spokesman

All News 06:11 January 28, 2022

(ATTN: UPDATES with additional remarks from Kirby, reports of remarks by Department of State spokesperson, additional information in paras 5-6, 14-19; ADDS photo)
By Byun Duk-kun

WASHINGTON, Jan. 27 (Yonhap) -- The United States is equally focused on dealing with the threat posed by North Korea just as it is with all other major security issues, U.S. Department of Defense Press Secretary John Kirby said Thursday.

North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles on Thursday (Seoul time), marking its sixth missile launch since the start of this month.

"Just because right now one issue obviously is certainly capturing the attention of the world community doesn't mean that we are not equally pursuing and focused on other threats and challenges to the country," Kirby said in a press briefing.

"And certainly, we're mindful of the destabilizing behavior by Pyongyang with respect to these recent tests," he added when asked why the U.S. was not paying more attention to the North Korean missile issue.

Department of Defense Press Secretary John Kirby is seen answering a question in a press briefing at the Pentagon in Washington on Jan. 27, 2022 in this image captured from the department's website. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Kirby said that was why the U.S. has called out nearly every missile test by North Korea.

"As a matter of fact, on nearly every single one of them, we issue a statement, and we make it clear that we're condemning these attacks, and we continue to call on the North Korean regime to stop these provocations, which, in many cases, violate existing U.N. Security Council resolutions that the whole international community should be signing up to," he said.

A state department spokesperson earlier noted the North had fired six ballistic missiles in five previous missile launches since the start of the year that included the test firing of two cruise missiles on Tuesday (Seoul time).

The North is prohibited from developing or testing any ballistic missile under U.N. Security Council resolutions.

"These tests, along with the six other ballistic missile launches this month, are in violation of multiple U.N. Security Council Resolutions and pose a threat to the DPRK's neighbors and the international community," the spokesperson told Yonhap, referring to North Korea by its official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Since January 2021 when President Joe Biden took office, North Korea has now staged a dozen rounds of missile launches, while ignoring all U.S. overtures for dialogue.

Pyongyang has also stayed away from any denuclearization negotiations since late 2019.

Kirby reiterated the U.S. is equally focused on North Korea, just as it is with other global issues, namely the growing tension along the Ukrainian-Russian border, saying the number one priority of Defense Secretary Austin Lloyd and the department is to "defend this nation against all threats."

"And that's what we're doing," he added.

Department of State Press Secretary Ned Price is seen answering a question in a press briefing at the department in Washington on Jan. 27, 2022 in this image captured from the department's website. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Ned Price, state department press secretary, noted that the North Korean missile launches remained "a priority challenge for the United States."

"And so that is why we are continuing to take action alongside the international community to prevent the advancement of the DPRK's WMD and ballistic missile programs," he said in his own press briefing at the state department.

The U.S. last week imposed sanctions on eight individuals and entities, including six North Koreans based in China and Russia, believed to be linked to illegal procurement of materials for North Korea's illicit weapons programs.

Price still renewed the American outreach to the reclusive North, saying the U.S. remains prepared to meet with the North at anytime without preconditions.

"Our message to the DPRK has been consistent ... We harbor no hostile intent towards the DPRK. We continue to seek dialogue with the DPRK," said Price.

"We have yet to receive substantive response. It is up to the DPRK to decide if they want to engage constructively," he added.


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