The Limits of Kim’s Patience: Will North Korea Test another Missile Soon?

May 31, 2019
Joshua H. Pollack

The following is an excerpt of an article published by NK News.

North Korea’s flight-testing of new short-range ballistic missiles on May 4 and May 9 continues to attract controversy.

With a tweet on Saturday from Tokyo, US President Trump was quick to dismiss the concerns of his own national security adviser, John Bolton, who had correctly noted that the testing of any ballistic missiles by North Korea contravenes a series of UN Security Council resolutions dating back to 2006.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in a joint press conference with Trump, also noted the violation of the Security Council resolutions, expressing his “great regret.”

While South Korea’s Blue House continues to steer a middle course, professing continued uncertainty about the nature of the weapons tested, an unnamed spokesman for North Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) has lashed out at Bolton, rejecting the Security Council resolutions as “illegal and outrageous” impositions on the country’s sovereign right to self-defense.

Why did North Korea test ballistic missiles in early May for the first time since November 2017, and why new solid-propelled short-range missiles in particular? Is Kim Jong Un likely to order additional tests? If so, will he move progressively to testing longer-range missiles, as he did in 2017?

It is difficult to forecast such matters, but a useful starting point is to consider how North Korea has portrayed the tests: as strictly conventional and “tactical” in nature, a calibrated response to the resumption of combined military exercises by the U.S.-South Korean alliance earlier this spring.

This suggests that, at least for the time being, North Korea is likely to confine its missile testing to respond to the sorts of occasions it has typically considered provocative: combined military exercises, port calls in Busan by American aircraft carriers or submarines, or long-range bomber exercises.

Unfortunately, for the reasons discussed below, such a relatively-limited pattern of testing may not last.

Continue reading at NK News.

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