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(LEAD) U.S. reaffirms security commitment to S. Korea following NK missile tests

11:13 January 15, 2022

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details, comments in paras 5-12; CHANGES headline, lead, dateline)

WASHINGTON/SEOUL, Jan. 14 (Yonhap) -- U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned North Korea's recent missile tests as a violation of multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions and reaffirmed the "ironclad" security commitment to South Korea, the State Department said Friday (U.S. time).

In a phone call with South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong, Blinken reaffirmed the bilateral alliance is "the linchpin of peace, security, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond," according to the department's statement.

Blinken "highlighted the importance of continued U.S.-ROK-Japan trilateral cooperation, and stressed that U.S. commitment to the defense of the ROK remains ironclad," referring to the acronym for South Korea's official name.

The phone conversation came shortly after Pyongyang said it fired two tactical guided missiles into the East Sea the previous day, the third missile test this month.

A North Korean missile is fired from a railway-based platform from North Pyongan Province, a northwestern region bordering China, in this photo released Jan. 15, 2022, by the North's official Korean Central News Agency. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

The top diplomats also discussed ways to restart the Korean peace process and urged the North to accept their efforts to resume talks, Seoul's foreign ministry said.

Denuclearization talks between Pyongyang and Washington have been stalled since their Hanoi summit ended without a deal in February 2019.

The U.S. has repeatedly said it remains open to dialogue without preconditions, but the North has not responded to its overture.

Following two launches of what the North claims to be hypersonic missiles, the Joe Biden administration on Wednesday blacklisted six North Koreans involved in its weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs.

Washington is also pushing the U.N. Security Council to impose additional sanctions on the North for its six ballistic missiles since September last year, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., said.

In response, the Kim Jong-un regime warned of a "stronger and certain reaction" if Washington helped impose more sanctions over its recent series of missile tests.

The reclusive regime is already subject to a wide web of U.N. Security Council sanctions for its nuclear and long-range missile tests, which ban it from making any launch using ballistic missile technology.

It remains unclear whether the U.N. council will reach a consensus on adding sanctions on Pyongyang especially as two permanent members -- China and Russia -- have veto power.

ejkim@yna.co.kr
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