The reclusive country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, hasn’t yet broadcast his country’s motives for launching the missile — the first such test since before last year’s American presidential election. North Korea watchers suggested several possible reasons for the timing, both practical and geopolitical.
The regime has made missile technology — especially a long-range missile capable of reaching other continents — a national priority, and the test could have been a logical extension of that effort. The launch might also have been an attempt to discern how the Trump administration, which is still formulating its North Korean strategy after visits to Japan and South Korea last week by Defense Secretary James Mattis, might react.
It’s possible, too, that the launch was set to coincide with the birthday of Kim Jong Il, the current leader’s late father.
“A test like this serves all three purposes at once,” said Sheena Chestnut Greitens, a political science professor at the University of Missouri and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center for East Asia Policy Studies.