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Wednesday, August 17, 2022

What is causing North Korea to launch so many missiles all of a sudden?

North Korea started the new year by calling a meeting of the governing Workers’ Party, during which virtually little was spoken about the United States of America, according to reports. Fortunately, the gloomy hush was short-lived.

Throughout four weapons tests since Jan. 5, North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, has fired six ballistic missiles, which is almost the same number of missiles that North Korea launched during the whole of the previous year. As of Tuesday, the South Korean military stated that the North had conducted its fifth nuclear test of 2022, in which it launched two cruise missiles.

In one sentence, the message was clear: North Korea’s leader believes he is being neglected and wants to pressure the Biden administration to re-engage with and pay attention to his country’s economically suffering economy.

Taking them individually, the tests may not have been very significant since they featured missiles that had previously been tested or weapons that were still in the research stage. Nonetheless, when considered together, they indicate that Mr. Kim intends to use 2022 to shake the Biden administration out of its diplomatic coma, as previously said.

Mr. Kim need the engagement of the United States on economic concessions in order to repair his country’s shattered economic infrastructure. Over the years, he has discovered that using weaponry to attract the attention of an American president is the most effective strategy. Moreover, that the most advantageous moment to do so is when the globe can least afford upheaval.

China is hard at work preparing for the next Beijing Olympics, which will take place next month. In March, the people of South Korea will pick a new president. Russia has hinted at a possible invasion of Ukraine, which has the Biden administration on tenterhooks and on high alert.

When the Politburo met on Wednesday, Mr. Kim hinted that his government would resume long-range missile and nuclear device testing after postponing such tests before to his 2018 summit meeting with President Donald J. Trump, which occurred in Singapore.

“North Korea’s saber-rattling will continue in 2022, punctuated by some large missile launches,” said Lee Sung-yoon, a North Korea specialist at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. After establishing short-range ballistic missile flights as a routine part of everyday life with no consequences, Kim plans to go on to more provocative measures, such as restarting intermediate- and long-range missile testing punctuated by a nuclear test, similar to what he did in 2017.”

In the same year, North Korea conducted a hydrogen bomb test and fired three intercontinental ballistic missiles, which were all intercepted. It was also the year Mr. Trump was elected President of the United States after a divisive election campaign in the country. South Korea had recently impeached its president, and the world was watching.

Mr. Kim vowed to end the ban on long-range missile and nuclear testing on Wednesday, marking the second time he has done so. After his diplomacy with President Donald Trump came to an end without a deal in 2019, he said that he no longer felt obligated to the pact. However, he did not carry out any of these studies, and his nation was soon thrown into disorder as a result of the coronavirus epidemic that had swept the world.

This year also marks the beginning of Mr. Kim’s second decade in power, providing him with an opportunity to reestablish his authority and consolidate his position.

Having seized power, Kim has concentrated on expanding the nation’s arsenal in order to legitimise his family’s dynastic rule, referring to North Korea’s nuclear weapons as a “treasured sword” that guards the country from foreign invasion.

On Wednesday, he encouraged North Koreans to mark the 80th anniversary of his father and predecessor, Kim Jong-il, in February, as well as the 110th anniversary of the birth of his grandfather, Kim Il-sung, in April, by holding public celebrations.

Under his father and grandpa, North Korea seemed to be willing to put its nuclear goals on the back burner. That optimism has been dashed under Mr. Kim, who has aggressively advanced the nation’s nuclear programme even as the United Nations stepped up its sanctions against the country.

The military’s capacity to launch several missiles while remaining hidden from counterattacks by the United States and South Korea was shown in the most recent test, which decreased the gap to four minutes.

Cha Du-hyeogn, a principal fellow at the Seoul-based Asan Institute for Policy Studies, wrote in a recent paper that North Korea believes that if it continues to demonstrate its nuclear capabilities but confines them to the Korean Peninsula, it will not aggravate public opinion in the United States and will instead strengthen voices there calling for a diplomatic solution.

In order for Mr. Kim’s policy to be successful, he will need the ongoing assistance of China in fighting any additional international sanctions. North Korea’s economic difficulties were exacerbated two years ago when the country closed its border with China in order to combat the virus. The Chinese government acknowledged this month that the country and North Korea have reopened their border for freight trains “after amicable negotiations.”

Professor Leif-Eric Easley, of Ewha Womans University in Seoul and a specialist in international relations, says the timing of Pyongyang’s provocations indicates that Beijing is more than complicit in the regime’s actions. “China is providing economic assistance to North Korea while also collaborating with it militarily.”

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