North Korea fires two ballistic missiles – days after testing ‘weapon of great significance’

World

Analysis by Tom Cheshire, Asia correspondent

Not long ago, you couldn’t go a week without a North Korean missile launch. But the country has been quieter for a while, perhaps while it dealt with COVID or challenging economic conditions.

Normal service has been very much resumed, though. And, just like buses, after a long wait two launches have come at once.

Over the weekend, the regime announced it had successfully tested a long range cruise missile, one it described as a “strategic weapon of great significance” – code for potentially nuclear capable.

That may or may not be the case and US and South Korean intelligence will be looking closely.

There’s no doubt about today’s launch of two ballistic missiles. Unlike the cruise missile, which was first made public by North Korean state media, both Japanese and South Korean officials reported this launch.

That indicates these were bigger missiles they were able to track.

The timing is interesting. Nuclear negotiators from the US, South Korea and Japan are meeting in Tokyo.

More unusually, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is in Seoul to discuss the stalled nuclear diplomacy with President Moon Jae-in.

China is North Korea’s most important friend. Loosing off missiles while he’s in town just over the border may be regarded as a warning to remember whose side he’s supposed to be on, and of the capability and threat that North Korea poses more generally.

Then there was the judgment last month by the UN that North Korea has restarted its nuclear reactor, potentially producing plutonium for warheads.

Add in a big military parade in the capital Pyongyang – where we saw a new, slimmed down Kim Jong Un – and the clear message is that North Korea is back in business.

The issue had been parked for the beginning of the Biden administration, while the world grappled with COVID-19. North Korea’s recent actions are a reminder that it is a long way from being solved.

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