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Is North Korea returning to brinkmanship?

2024-07-13 21:12:14      点击:503
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Joe Biden / Korea Times file
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Joe Biden / Korea Times file

Pyongyang's missile test aims to gain edge over US in nuke talks

By Kang Seung-woo

North Korea's launch of short-range missiles over the weekend is set to pressure the new U.S. administration to come up with a policy review favorable to the totalitarian state, according to diplomatic observers.

However, they added that Pyongyang staged a toned-down provocation without defying international sanctions or shutting the door to diplomacy with the U.S., although it also means the country can go further should the U.S. mount its pressure on the regime.

According to the South Korean and U.S. military authorities, Wednesday, the Kim Jong-un regime fired two cruise missiles off the west coast, Sunday, the first such launches since the inauguration of the Joe Biden administration in January.

"We detected two projectiles presumed to be cruise missiles fired from the North's western port county of Onchon early Sunday," a Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) official told reporters without elaborating on other details, including their exact type, flight range or apogee.

The U.S. also acknowledged that the North Korean military activity was not in violation of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions banning the country from testing ballistic missile technology.

"North Korea surely has a sense that the Biden administration will try and rebuild a strong sanctions regime with the intended goal of putting more pressure on the Kim regime," said Harry Kazianis, a senior director of Korean Studies at the Center for the National Interest.

South Korea holds emergency National Security Council meeting on North Korea's projectile launch South Korea holds emergency National Security Council meeting on North Korea's projectile launch 2021-03-25 10:02  |  North Korea North Korea fires 2 short-range ballistic missiles into East Sea: JCS North Korea fires 2 short-range ballistic missiles into East Sea: JCS 2021-03-25 08:10  |  North Korea North Korea conducted short-range missile test North Korea conducted short-range missile test 2021-03-24 08:02  |  North Korea Latest North Korean missile launches not covered by UN resolutions: US officials Latest North Korean missile launches not covered by UN resolutions: US officials 2021-03-24 08:15  |  North Korea "Pyongyang, through these new missile tests, is signaling to Team Biden that its military capabilities will continue to get more potent with each passing day. Even with a pandemic and international sanctions still in place, North Korea still can cause the death of millions of people in minutes, and any missile test of any range or scope only reinforces such a terrifying reality."

"North Korea has a familiar menu of provocations when it wants to send a message to a U.S. administration," a U.S. senior official said.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Joe Biden / Korea Times file
This footage, aired by the North Korean Korean Central Television on July 26, 2019, shows a short-range missile being fired from a transporter erector launcher on the Hodo Peninsula near the eastern coastal town of Wonsan the previous day. Yonhap

Believing that the missile launch was intended to influence the ongoing U.S. review of policy toward North Korea, Park Won-gon, a professor of North Korean studies at Ewha Womans University, said North Korea likely made the launch following a heated U.S.-China meeting last week in Anchorage, Alaska.

"After witnessing the U.S. and China trading barbs in Anchorage, I think North Korea likely thought China could protect it from the U.S.," Park said.

The Biden administration is still conducting its policy review of North Korea and is expected to finish up in the coming weeks, according to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Without knowing what the U.S. will decide about its policy, the North Korean missile tests fell on the low end of that spectrum of military activities, according to the U.S. official, who said the launch was not in breach of UNSC resolutions.

"Due to the ongoing policy review, North Korea likely tried to find an optimal way to send a message to the U.S. without facing any punitive measures," Park said.

In response to the missile tests, President Biden shrugged off the launch. "Nothing much has changed," he said, Tuesday (local time). "It's business as usual." He added that the missile launch was not considered a provocation.

Saying that the belated announcement of the North Korean missile tests was the Biden administration's "willful ignorance" to grab the initiative in its nuclear talks with North Korea, Park said the missile tests may have paid off to some extent.

"Since Biden took office in January, he has never mentioned the North Korea issue in public, not even with his phone conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping, but finally he did this time," the professor said, adding that the North's nuclear program could be high on the Biden administration's foreign policy.


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