North Korea’s test launch of two ballistic missiles on Wednesday, which coincided with three other major regional security events, is an attempt by Pyongyang to gain international attention, according to analysts.
The launches occurred on the same day as a South Korean ballistic missile test, a diplomatic visit by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to South Korea, and a meeting in Japan of envoys from Washington, Seoul, and Tokyo to discuss strategies for bringing Pyongyang back to the negotiating table over its nuclear and missile programs.
The North Korean missiles were launched from an inland location after 12:30 p.m., travelling 800 kilometers (497 miles) and reaching a maximum altitude of 60 kilometers, accordingkilometresKorea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (37 miles). The missiles were intercepted in the waters east of the Korean peninsula. They were the first ballistic missile tests conducted by the North since March.
The ballistic missile tests came just two days after North Korea successfully tested a new cruise missile system that would allow it to hit most of Japan with low-flying cruise missiles.
The United States condemned North Korea’s launch, calling it a violation of several UN Security Council Resolutions and a threat to North Korea’s neighbours and the international community. The South Korean launch was not mentioned in the statement.
Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s Prime Minister, called the North Korean tests “outrageous” and said they threatened regional peace and security.
When asked about Monday’s cruise missile tests, Wang Yi told reporters on Wednesday that all parties involved must work toward a peaceful and stable Korean peninsula.
“Other countries, in addition to North Korea, are engaging in military activity,” he said.
The United States and the United Nations have imposed sanctions on North Korea over the issue of denuclearization. Pyongyang seeks sanctions relief, whereas Washington seeks complete denuclearization, which North Korea appears unwilling to provide.
Overreactions to North Korean missile tests only benefit Pyongyang, Soo Kim of the RAND Corporation in California told RFA’s Korean Service on Wednesday.
“It would be in the interests of the United States and the international community not to exaggerate North Korean provocations, as doing so would give Pyongyang the undue attention that it seeks,” she said.
“Hurrying to address nuclear and missile threats may only play into North Korea’s hands,” Soo Kim warned.
Meanwhile, Jessica Lee of Washington’s Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft told RFA that the situation on the Korean peninsula is a “ticking bomb.”
“President Biden squandered his early days in office by failing to establish new diplomatic channels on the Peninsula. Now he’s trying to catch up in the midst of a crisis,” she explained.
“Wednesday’s dual ballistic missile test in the North and submarine-launched ballistic missile test in the South demonstrate the critical importance of diplomacy,” Lee said.
Lee also stated that more than 40 US civil society organisations have asked the administration to lift broad-based sanctions that are harming innocent North Koreans.
“A more flexible sanctions regime tied to progress in denuclearization or other types of threat reduction steps, such as the elimination of North Korea’s chemical weapons, would provide a critical off-ramp from the current situation,” she said.
However, offering more concessions to Pyongyang in order to resume negotiations would be a mistake, according to Bruce Klingner of the Heritage Foundation.
“We don’t need to buy our way back into the conversation. We declare that we are open to discussion. We are eager to enter into negotiations. But, once again, North Korea is refusing to engage in dialogue, “Klingner said.
“As North Korea escalates further provocations… they’re attempting to demonstrate that they’re negotiating from a position of strength – that even with the sanctions and COVID restrictions they’ve imposed on themselves, and the economic problems they’re experiencing, that they’re still tough, that they’re not going to give in to the US,” Klingner said.
According to Ramon Pacheco Pardo, a Korea expert at King’s College London, the ballistic and cruise missile launches were in response to joint military exercises between the United States and South Korea a few weeks ago.
“Statements coming out of Pyongyang when the exercises began pointed to these tests as a way for North Korea to demonstrate its ability to deter the United States and South Korea,” he said.
“In terms of Washington’s response, I believe its hands are tied. “”China and Russia will not agree to new sanctions, and the US has actually called for talks in recent weeks,” he said.
According to Anthony Ruggiero of the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), the launches demonstrate that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ignores his people’s suffering while investing in nuclear and missile programs.
“North Korea will continue to conduct these tests in order to put pressure on Biden to reach a limited nuclear agreement and provide sanctions relief. President Biden should respond by stepping up sanctions and diplomatic pressure to address these programs, he said.
Ken Gause of the CNA think tank in Virginia advised against new sanctions in response to North Korean missile launches.
“If the United States and the United Nations do manage to impose sanctions in response to the missile launch, they will be watered down and ignored. As a result, it would be a symbolic act. But, once again, it interferes with your diplomacy,” Gause said.
Gause explained that the timing of the tests was a message to China:
“‘Hey, you should pay attention to North Korea.'”You can’t simply go to South Korea. ”
“They are envious when China pits one against the other… The North Koreans will say, “Look, we’re your ally and partner over here.” “Don’t forget about us,” Gause said.