As if you didn’t already have enough to worry about between the coronavirus tanking the stock market and Turkey melting down the Syria situation again. Now another bad actor who’s been rather quiet for a while is looking to generate more headlines. North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un has apparently grown tired of waiting for President Trump to cave to his demands and decided to kick his missile testing program back into gear. The Associated Press reports that two short to medium-range missiles were fired from North Korea over the weekend, and Little Rocket Man is promising more surprises to come.
North Korea fired two unidentified projectiles into its eastern sea on Monday as it begins to resume weapons demonstrations after a months-long hiatus that could have been forced by the coronavirus crisis in Asia.
The launches came two days after North Korea’s state media said leader Kim Jong Un supervised an artillery drill aimed at testing the combat readiness of units in front-line and eastern areas.
Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the projectiles fired from an area near the coastal town of Wonsan flew about 240 kilometers (149 miles) northeast on an apogee of about 35 kilometers (22 miles).
Both American and South Korean military personnel are still examining the data on these “unidentified projectiles,” but we’ve got a pretty good handle on what they were. It looks like these two missiles were part of the latest generation of Kim’s short-range weapons that are designed to be able to hit targets in South Korea and Japan, including U.S. bases.
The two interesting features about these weapons are their fuel and mobility. These are solid-fuel rockets that are more reliable and less volatile than the older, liquid-fuel rockets. Also, the launching equipment allows for them to be highly mobile, with the ability to rapidly deploy a larger number of missiles, each with multiple warheads potentially capable of hitting multiple targets.
So why is Kim back to running these provocative tests now? He may either be hoping to pressure President Trump into making some big concessions on sanctions or releasing some aid. Alternately, he may have simply grown tired of waiting for Trump to cave and has decided to throw his lot in with Russia and China entirely. If he’s waiting for Trump to blink first, he was probably going be waiting a long time.
I think the current state of affairs demonstrates what many followers of events on the Korean peninsula have suspected all along. Kim Jong-un never had any intention of seriously dismantling his nuclear weapons and ICBM programs. He talked a good game for a while, but what he was really seeking was respect on the world stage as a recognized state leader. His summits with Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping gave him that.
Kim is also reportedly terrified that if he gave up his nuclear arsenal, forces from the west would surely invade his nation and remove him from power. In reality, I don’t think anyone has the stomach for that currently unless he actually decides to nuke somebody, but one never knows where the paranoid mind will wander.
Absent any dramatic changes in the near future, we appear to be right back where we were before Trump originally reached out to Kim and started a conversation. It was a nice break from the madness and it lasted longer than I’d originally anticipated. But if it’s over, Trump may as well go back to calling him Little Rocket Man at this point.