Say, remember those fun-loving nutcases just above the 38th Parallel?  Perhaps they’re worried you don’t:

North Korea fired three short-range missiles from its east coast on Saturday, South Korea’s Defense Ministry said, but the purpose of the launches was unknown.

Launches by the North of short-term missiles are not uncommon, but the ministry would not speculate whether these latest launches were part of a test or training exercise.

North Korea fired short-range guided missiles twice in the morning and once in the afternoon off its east coast,” an official at the South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman’s office said by telephone.

Japan said none of the missiles landed in their territorial waters.  They’re probably not going to react much to short-range missile launches, nor would these kind of missile launches be designed to provoke Tokyo in the first place.  This is most likely a long-delayed response to Seoul’s partnership with the US in conducting war games this spring.

If so, it’s, er … uncharacteristically lame.  Three days ago, Pyongyang scolded Seoul for its own supposed provocations, but also gave a strong hint that the DPRK wants to talk about the shuttered Kaesong industrial zone:

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) urged Wednesday the South Korean authorities to stop provocation if it wants to start dialogue on the Kaesong industry zone (KIZ), the official news agency KCNA reported.

“We remind the South Korean authorities once again that the prospect of KIZ and the future orientation of the north-south relations entirely depend on their attitude,” a spokesman for the General Bureau for Central Guidance to the Development of the Special Zone told KCNA.

The remark is a response to a Tuesday proposal by the South Korea’s Ministry of Unification under the instruction of South Korean President Park Geun-hye to hold working-level talks at the truce village of Panmunjom to alleviate the ongoing plight of the 123 South Korean companies that have been forced out of the complex.

“If the south side truly intends to normalize the operation of KIZ, it should not talk about dialogue with unessential issues such as the issue of communications and carrying out of goods but opt for settling basic issues and stop provocative remarks and confrontation racket against the DPRK,” said the unidentified spokesman.

The “confrontation racket” refers to the US/RoK war games, but it’s a more apt description of the temper tantrums in which the Kim regime has indulged over the last several months.  It’s even more inexplicable, considering Pyongyang’s recent diplomatic coup:

A small crack has appeared in the international show of unity against North Korea‘s development of nuclear weapons, following the “secret” visit to Pyongyang this week by a special adviser toJapan‘s prime minister, Shinzo Abe.

Isao Iijima arrived in the North Korean capital on Tuesday for a four-day visit that many believe was aimed at restarting talks on the regime’s cold war abduction of Japanese citizens, who were used to train communist agents.

Tokyo‘s decision to engage with the North was apparently known initially to only a handful of officials at the prime minister’s office; Tokyo had not even notified its regional partners of Iijima’s plans, to the barely concealed irritation in Seoul and Washington.

“We don’t think Isao Iijima’s visit to North Korea was helpful,” South Korean foreign ministry spokesman Cho Tae-Young said.

Well, neither were the short-range missile launches — if the DPRK is serious about finding a diplomatic solution to the standoff.  If this is really a “secret” visit, the exposure will embarrass Tokyo and create friction between Japan and the US.  However, it’s much more likely that Tokyo, Washington, Beijing, and Seoul coordinated this effort, given that the only country Pyongyang hates worse than the US is Japan.

Firing missiles of any kind during the visit, though, is clearly an act of humiliation. Iijima returned yesterday, and almost immediately North Korea did what it had wanted to do all along, which was to shoot off some missiles and look scary.  It may not quite be an “eff off,” but it’s pretty darned close in the world of diplomatic nuance.

Either the Kim regime is just toying with its opponents, or there is a very deep division within it.  It might be that those running the military want to stick with the hard line and shot the missiles off to undermine another faction wanting improved diplomatic relations with the world. If so, then the situation could get very dangerous.  It also could just be that the Kim regime likes to play games, even if no one can really figure out what possible value they have other than to just make themselves feel good.