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Secretary of State Antony Blinken calls North Korea missile tests 'destabilizing'

By Calley Hair
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Secretary of State Antony Blinken calls North Korea missile tests 'destabilizing'
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he attributes North Korea's latest missile tests to the regime "trying to get attention." File Pool Photo by John Minchillo/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 13 (UPI) -- U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Thursday that North Korea's successful ballistic missile launches are "profoundly destabilizing," repeating his call for the regime to engage in unconditional diplomatic discussions.

In an interview with MSNBC's Morning Joe, Blinken said there has been "no response" from North Korea to those requests. In the past, North Korean leadership has indicated it will only come to the table if the United States first agrees to lift sanctions.

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"Some months ago, we made clear that we were prepared to engage the North Koreans, to sit down with no preconditions, to see if we could find a way forward with them at the table toward the total denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," he said in response to a question from journalist Jonathan Lemire.

"We've made clear that we have no hostile intent toward North Korea, and we've waited to see if they are prepared to engage," Blinken said. "The response we've seen -- as you [Lemire] pointed out -- in recent weeks has been renewed missile tests, something that is profoundly destabilizing."

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A North Korean missile reportedly landed in the Sea of Japan Tuesday. It marked the second ballistics test from the country in less than a week, following a Jan. 5 missile that state-run North Korean media claimed was hypersonic.

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The South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff reported that North Korea had fired a second missile from its northern Jagang Province at 7:27 a.m. Tuesday morning. It flew more than 435 miles and hit a maximum altitude of 37 miles.

The missile reportedly reached Mach 10, or 10 times the speed of sound.

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Blinken said he attributes the recent missile tests to North Korea "trying to get attention."

"It's done that in the past; it'll probably continue to do that. But we are very focused with allies and partners in making sure that they and we are properly defended and that there are repercussions," Blinken said.

Blinken's comments came one day after the U.S. Treasury Department formally sanctioned five North Koreans living in Russia and China, claiming they are linked to Pyongyang's ballistic missile launches.

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Brian Nelson, the undersecretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said the move was meant to "target [North Korea's] continued use of overseas representatives to illegally procure goods for weapons."

"The DPRK's latest missile launches are further evidence that it continues to advance prohibited programs despite the international community's calls for diplomacy and denuclearization," Nelson said, using an abbreviation for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

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Four of the sanctioned individuals were reportedly working to procure materials for the Second Academy of Natural Sciences, North Korea's national weapons development organization. A fifth individual was acting as deputy representative of a company believed to be a cover for a SANS firm.

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