Threat from N. Korea continues to grow with each test: Pentagon spokesman

WASHINGTON-- The threat posed by North Korea continues to increase with each missile test North Korea stages, a Pentagon spokesperson said Wednesday, urging the recalcitrant country to halt its provocations and engage in dialogue.

John Kirby reiterated it would be foolish not to think the North's missile capabilities are increasing.

"We would agree that the threat from North Korea continues to increase because they continue to test, because they continue to learn, because they continue to adapt their program," the Department of Defense press secretary said.

The remarks came after the visiting Japanese defense minister, Nobuo Kishi, said the North has become a "greater and more imminent threat" in a meeting with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin here.

Pyongyang fired a ballistic missile into the East Sea on Wednesday (Seoul time), marking its 14th known show of force this year.

Kirby said the U.S. is still analyzing the latest North Korean missile launch, but insisted the North's missile capability would have advanced even if it were a failure.

"I think with each test ... even if it's a failure, and again we are still assessing this one, so I'm not going to get into the details of it, but with each test, they learn, with each test, they try to improve and sometimes they actually do," said Kirby.

"It would be foolish not to assess that the threat they are posing is actually increasing over time," he added.

The latest missile launch comes about two weeks before U.S. President Joe Biden is set to embark on his first Asia tour that will take him to South Korea and Japan.

Kirby insisted the missile launch may not have been specifically aimed at Biden's upcoming trip, but said a missile test can never be good.

"I don't think we can say specifically that it's timed for anything in particular," he said when asked. "There's never a good time, quite frankly, for the DPRK to conduct these kinds of tests and that's the larger point."

DPRK stands for the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

The Pentagon spokesperson also reaffirmed U.S. commitment to engaging with North Korea.

"We continue to call on the North to stop these provocative tests and to be willing to sit down as we have offered. We would be willing to do without precondition and discuss a diplomatic way forward here to denuclearize the North," he said.

Source: Yonhap News Agency