US calls on North Korea to halt 'unlawful and destabilizing' missile launches

The U.S. envoy focused on North Korea called at least two ballistic missile launches by North Korea Monday "unlawful and destabilizing activities" and pushed for the nuclear-armed nation to engage in dialogue.

Sung Kim, the U.S. Special Representative for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), the official name of North Korea, made his remarks in a trilateral call with officials in South Korea, formally the Republic of Korea (ROK), and Japan.

North Korea's missile launches on Monday came on top of two other launches, on Jan. 10 and Jan. 5, with which Pyongyang reportedly tested advanced hypersonic missiles.

South Korea's military reportedly said the missile launches are an attempt by Pyongyang to demonstrate its military might amid stalled diplomacy with the U.S. and pandemic border closures.

Kim, the U.S. ambassador to Indonesia who was appointed as special envoy for North Korea in May, expressed "concern about the DPRK's missile launches, which violated multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions and were the latest in a series of ballistic missile launches by the DPRK this month," State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement.

Kim further reiterated to South Korean and Japanese officials "the U.S. commitment to the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, as well as its ironclad commitment to the defense of its allies."

Kim had spoken with officials in South Korea and Japan on Jan. 11, according to a State Department readout of the call. It was "the latest in a number of calls made between the three since January 5," according to the readout.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday spoke with South Korea's Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong and stressed the U.S.'s commitment to the defense of Seoul "remains ironclad."

Blinken, in an interview with NPR on Friday, called North Korea's missile tests "profoundly destabilizing."

The Treasury Department last week issued sanctions on five North Korean officials residing in Russia and China for aiding North Korea's ballistic missile program in response to at least six missile launches that occurred between September and Jan. 10.

North Korea has rejected offers by the Biden administration to host bilateral talks without preconditions, with Pyongyang saying that it wants Washington to address its "hostile activity" before it engages in any talks, a broad term likely to refer to sanctions imposed by the U.S. as well as military coordination it has with South Korea.