Seoul-North Korea test-fired two short-range ballistic missiles on Wednesday, its second launch in less than a week and the latest visible attempt to increase diplomatic pressure on the United States.
The South Korean military, which monitors such launches, reached an altitude of 600 kilometers after the North Korean missiles flew about 1,000 kilometers before hitting the sea off North Korea’s east coast.
Japan’s defense ministry said the projectiles did not enter Japanese territory and fell outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone.
The U.S. military’s Indo-Pacific Command said in a statement that the launch highlighted the “destabilizing effects” of North Korea’s illicit weapons program.
It was not immediately clear what type of missile was launched. North Korea has tested a variety of new, short-range ballistic missiles since 201.
The launch comes just two days after North Korea demanded a test of a new long-range cruise missile. It was Pyongyang’s first known missile test in about six months.
Korea tests long-range cruise missiles designed to evade defense
This is North Korea’s first missile test in six months
Late last month, the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency said North Korea appeared to have recently reopened a plutonium-producing nuclear reactor at its Yongbyon nuclear site.
Some analysts say the move indicates that North Korea is trying to increase its bargaining power with the United States, including in some nuclear talks. The North is often engaged in diplomacy after escalating tensions through verbal threats or weapons tests.
North Korea’s latest launch coincides with a visit to Tokyo by U.S. Special Envoy for North Korea Sung Kim, who is meeting with his counterparts in South Korea and Japan.
On Tuesday, the US ambassador reiterated Washington’s offer to resume talks without preconditions, saying the United States was ready to work on humanitarian issues with North Korea “regardless of progress on nuclear disarmament.”
But Park One-Gon, a professor of North Korean studies at Seoul’s Ewa Women’s University, noted that such a statement did not appear to satisfy North Korea.
Park said North Korea has many reasons to put pressure on the United States. “And although Sang Kim’s remarks may seem compromising, he has repeatedly said that the United States will not accept North Korea’s demand for lifting sanctions.”
Trying to pay attention?
Although the administration of US President Joe Biden has expressed a desire to resume talks with North Korea, much of its focus has been elsewhere, including efforts to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan and fight the Covid-1 fight. Some analysts say Pyongyang may be neglected.
“North Korea is expressing its dissatisfaction with the Biden administration, which has remained extremely passive in the name of a cautious and cooperative North Korean policy towards North Korea,” said Bong Young-shik, a researcher at the Institute for North at Yonsi University. Korean Studies in Seoul.
Another possible issue, Bong said, is South Korea’s upcoming presidential election. So far, very little has been said about North Korea in the campaign; Instead, candidates have focused on economics and COVID-19 policy.
“The North Korean leadership has certainly decided to increase the level of provocation as a way to get more attention from all relevant parties,” he added.
Korean arms race
North Korea could also conduct missile tests in an effort to align with its neighbor South Korea’s expanded arsenal, which recently introduced new ballistic missile technology.
On Wednesday, the same day as the launch of the North ballistic missile, South Korea announced that it had conducted the first underwater test of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM).
The test, observed by South Korean President Moon Jae-in, made South Korea the seventh country, including the native SLBM.
North Korea has not commented on South Korea’s launch, but has repeatedly complained about Seoul’s military installations in recent months.
For most of this year, North Korea has focused on domestic issues, including natural disasters, epidemic prevention, and food shortages. Since those crises still exist, some analysts hope that North Korea will refrain from major provocations, such as a long-range ballistic missile or nuclear test, which could lead to further economic and diplomatic isolation.
In June, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said his country was preparing for “both dialogue and confrontation” with the United States.
A few months later, North Korea briefly reopened several lines of communication with the South, raising hopes that Pyongyang would enter a new phase of diplomacy. But North Korea cut the hotline shortly after, with South Korea and the United States seeing Pyongyang as a provocation after conducting joint military exercises.