According to South Korea and Japan, North Korea has launched two ballistic missiles. It is believed the two short range missiles flew four hundred and fifty kilometers before landing in the sea. Analysts say the country has a history of testing new US administrations with missile launches and other provocations to force the Americans back to the negotiating table.
Are they a message to the new U.S. administration?
North Korea conducts these kinds of tests for multiple reasons, not least because it provides them good practical experience for improving their weapons and also giving training to their troops. But it’s impossible not to see this in context of the new administration and the review that the Biden administration is conducting right now.
It may also the result, after North Korea had rebuffed Biden’s administration’s attempts to reach out to them. So in many ways, this underscores what we heard from North Korea in a statement last week, which was that it’s not interested in speaking to the United States, but that if it does come back to the negotiating table, it wants to do so on its own terms.
South Korean officials voiced deep concern they convened emergency meetings of National Security Council and said that they were working closely with US intelligence services and other allies to address this. At the same time, the administration has been very eager to try to restart engagement with North Korea. So while they’re likely to continue to voice this concern, they in other ways may downplay this in an effort to try to get those talks going again.
Under the Trump administration, North Korea can turn on a dime, going from firing for fury then to major summits with Trump. So it’s difficult to predict. But at the moment, many analysts don’t expect North Korea to return to talks quickly, not least because they seem quite focused on issues at home, including economic problems and kind of fighting the ongoing coronavirus problem.