Rocketman returns: North Korea fires two missiles


North Korea is testing out two kinds of missiles. The launches happened along the eastern coast of North Korea early this morning – something which appears to have seriously alarmed South Korea. Reuters reports the United Nations could get involved, too.

The South’s National Security Council said it believed the missiles were a new type of ballistic missile but it would make a final assessment with the United States.

Firing a ballistic missile would be a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions that ban the North from the use of such technology. North Korea has rejected the restriction as an infringement of its sovereign right to self-defense.

North Korea launched the missiles from the east coast city of Wonsan with one flying about 430 km (267 miles) and the other 690 km (428 miles) over the sea. They both reached an altitude of 50 km (30 miles), an official at South Korea’s Defense Ministry said.

Some analysts said the North appeared to have retested missiles it fired in May, but two South Korean military officials said the missiles appeared to be a new design.

Those expecting the UN to actually do something shouldn’t start holding their breaths.

It is extremely interesting to see these launches happen shortly after or during National Security Adviser John Bolton’s visit to South Korea for talks with their government. Bolton tweeted his talks with South Korea went well but has yet to make a statement regarding the North Korean tests. South Korea has spoken with the U.S. and Japan. Even China made a statement on the launches with Reuters reporting they want the U.S. and North Korea to get back to the negotiating table.

The tests are being characterized as posturing by North Korea in hopes of getting more concessions during negotiations. Voice of America – the United States government-funded news entity – essentially suggested it was a failure of diplomacy by President Donald Trump.

It has been less than a month since Trump shook hands with Kim at the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas — a meeting White House officials portrayed at the time as a breakthrough.

Since then, North Korea has not responded to U.S. requests to begin working-level negotiations. Instead, the North has continued escalating provocations and threats, in what analysts say is an attempt to improve its negotiating position.

Last week, North Korea’s foreign ministry hinted Pyongyang could forego the talks and may resume intercontinental ballistic missile launches and nuclear tests if the United States and South Korea go ahead with planned joint military exercises…

The provocations are a reminder that North Korea is taking advantage of the stalled talks to continue developing its nuclear and weapons programs, despite Trump’s insistence that talks are progressing.

“The Kim regime likely times these tests for international signaling purposes, applying political pressure on the U.S. and South Korea in an effort to get more for less in future negotiations,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha Womans University in Seoul.

“This contrast raises questions about North Korean intentions,” Easley said. “Kim’s plan appears to be keeping his country relatively closed and nuclear armed, while pocketing any political or economic benefits on offer.”

North Korea is definitely taking a harder line, which seems odd given the ‘great friendship’ Trump claims to have with Kim. A source told Reuters a planned meeting between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and a top North Korean official at a conference in Thailand is off. This appears to be Kim trying to please someone, possibly the military, to keep himself in power.

The solution isn’t going to be easy, especially if North Korea keeps this posturing. America should be willing to open up trade with Kim because it can encourage freedom in the long run. People have to remember the Chinese – for all of their claimed adherence to Mao – are slowly, but surely liberalizing their economy (even if their human rights record is atrocious). A flow of American capital into North Korea could give everyone, from those in the palace to those in the slums, the chance to better their lives through commerce. It won’t happen as quickly as we’d like to see it happen, but the alternatives are either the current situation or war. No one should want the latter, while the former isn’t working at all.

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