In a sign of protest against the US administration’s “rigid approach” towards North Korea after two failed summits, Pyongyang fired multiple projectiles last Saturday followed by two short-range missiles on Thursday.
The moves in less than a week are significant. North Korea had not launched any missile since November 2017, shortly before the easing of tensions on the Korean peninsula leading to the historic summit between North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump in Singapore in June last year.
The second meeting of the two leaders in Hanoi in February this year ended in failure without a deal or even a joint declaration. Kim blamed it on US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton.
Responding to Thursday’s missile launches, Trump said no one is happy and Washington is viewing them seriously.
By firing the multiple projectiles and missiles, Kim may be trying to convey a message that Trump should not involve Pompeo and Bolton in the next round of talks.
Trump had surprised White House officials last year by announcing his decision to hold talks with Kim in Singapore. Kim may be hoping Trump will think outside the box to make the next summit a success.
Thursday’s missile launches came soon after the US Special Representative on North Korea, Stephen Biegun, arrived in Seoul for talks.
North Korea’s official news agency KCNA hinted at more missile launches in the days ahead to prove the ability of the country’s defence units.
38 North website said the debris left by Thursday’s launch suggested it was a Russian Iskander missile.
Japanese Defence Minister Takeshi Iwaya said on Friday the missile launch is a clear violation of relevant UN Security Council resolutions.
South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in said North is trying to steer the nuclear talks in a direction it desires as the failed Hanoi summit has left inter-Korean ties in limbo.
Moon wants North Korea to refrain from further missile launches and Kim and Trump to hold another round of talks as early as possible.
In a move that may further upset Kim, the US has taken possession of a North Korean freighter seized by Indonesia a year ago on grounds of violating UN sanctions. The freighter had exported high-grade coal in exchange for machinery.