“Today’s actions, part of the United States’ ongoing efforts to counter (North Korea’s) weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs, target its continued use of overseas representatives to illegally procure goods for weapons,” Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson said in a statement.
North Korea’s “latest missile launches are further evidence that it continues to advance prohibited programs despite the international community’s calls for diplomacy and denuclearization,” he added.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement later Wednesday that in addition to the individuals and entities that the Treasury Department had imposed sanctions on, his department was placing sanctions on “one (North Korean) individual, one Russian individual, and one Russian entity that have engaged in activities or transactions that have materially contributed to the proliferation of (weapons of mass destruction) or their means of delivery by (North Korea).”
One US administration official said the current assessment is the missile most likely released a glide vehicle, but it’s not clear how successful it was. A maneuverable glide vehicle is when the front end of the missile detaches and can maneuver and change course.
Multiple officials also cautioned that analysis remains ongoing, with one adding that it is not clear if the capabilities demonstrated in the test are immediately relevant to North Korea’s operational military capacity.
Despite the advanced launch, the Biden administration does not plan to reach out to North Korea in a substantive way before South Korean elections in March, administration officials said.
The weapons test this week comes as diplomacy between the US and North Korea has been halted for more than a year. Though the Biden administration has tried to reach out to North Korea a handful of times, there has been no real response.
State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters on Wednesday that the Biden administration’s policy toward North Korea remains “unchanged” in the face of the recent missile launches. The administration still believes that the “only effective” way to bring about peace on the Korean Peninsula is through dialogue, he said.
US officials have watched, and quietly supported, as South Korea has tried to engage North Korea in many ways over the last year. But South Koreans do not think there is a high chance of diplomacy before the elections, and Biden administration officials agree.
Administration officials believe that North Korea is now solely focused on two things: the coronavirus pandemic and advancing its weapons systems, the officials said.
This story has been updated with additional details from the State Department.