The Pentagon said Tuesday that the U.S. will not act haphazardly in response to North Korea’s spate of missile launches over the past two weeks, stressing that diplomatic channels must remain open.
“While we take these launchings seriously, we monitor them, we try to understand what they’re doing and why,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper said during his trip to Japan this week. “We also need to be careful not to overreact and not to get ourselves in a situation where diplomacy is closed off.”
North Korea on Tuesday fired its fourth round of missiles in two weeks, a show of force from the rogue nation as the U.S. starts two weeks of routine joint military exercises with South Korea, which began over the weekend. The latest missiles were fired from South Hwanghae Province and landed in the sea, according to South Korea.
“We’ve made some adjustments after the presidents’ meeting last year and we’re still abiding by those and, again, in order to open the door for diplomacy, but at the same time we need to maintain our readiness and making sure that we’re prepared,” Esper said of this year’s less intense version of the military exercises.
Negotiations between the U.S. and the North warmed around the time of the historic summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in summer of last year, but cooled again at their second summit in Vietnam in February, which ended abruptly.
The dictatorship said in April that it has begun testing weapons again, including a “powerful warhead.”
The Trump administration has levied crippling sanctions on North Korea in the meantime, demanding that the country retire its nuclear weapons development program in exchange for economic relief.