The latest on . . .

North Korea and the limits of missile diplomacy

After ‘duelling’ missile tests on the Korean peninsula, North Korea’s intentions are harder than ever to read

The Korean peninsula was the site of “duelling” missile tests last week, said Michael Lee in Korea JoongAng Daily (Seoul). On Wednesday, North Korea launched two tactical ballistic missiles, from a train, in defiance of UN resolutions. South Korea, for its part, conducted a submarine-launched ballistic missile test, becoming the first nation without nuclear weapons to have that capability. The tests came soon after North Korean state media said that a long-range cruise missile capable of hitting Japan had been fired into the sea 930 miles away. Cruise missiles can carry a nuclear warhead, and are of particular concern because they fly low and can change direction in flight, evading defence systems. 

This arms race had been widely anticipated, said Jung Da-min in Korea Times (Seoul). Donald Trump’s attempt to make a grand bargain with Kim Jong Un failed; President Biden’s efforts to bring him to the negotiating table have been ineffective. In the summer, Pyongyang restarted its plutonium-producing reactor at Yongbyon. In response, South Korean president Moon Jae-in’s policy has been to strengthen his nation’s missile capabilities. Submarine-launched missiles, of the kind his forces have developed, are vital to maintaining a “retaliatory strike” capability: a country that has them can hit back hard, even if its military installations have been devastated by a nuclear attack. The pace has picked up since Biden met Moon at a summit in May and agreed to scrap restrictions on South Korea’s missile programme.

North Korea’s intentions are now harder than ever to read, said Michelle Ye Hee Lee in The Washington Post. Pyongyang sealed its borders during the pandemic, excluding even its only major trading partner, China. This prompted an exodus of foreigners – diplomats, aid workers, business envoys – who usually provided some insights into life in the totalitarian country. But the UN believes its people are suffering “severe” food shortages, and that there is a risk of a major famine. The reasons for its missile tests are still clear enough, said Christoph Bluth and Owen Greene on The Conversation. North Korea uses tests to demonstrate to its own population that “it is a great and powerful nation”. As far as the world outside is concerned, they are designed to “mitigate diplomatic isolation and as leverage to generate international aid”. There are, at present, no credible diplomatic initiatives for engaging with Pyongyang. So we can “expect further missile launches – and possibly nuclear weapons tests – in the near future”.

Recommended

Film review: Everything Everywhere All at Once
Michelle Yeoh in Everything Everywhere All at Once
In Review

Film review: Everything Everywhere All at Once

Trading currencies: what the experts think
The greenback is on the rise
Expert’s view

Trading currencies: what the experts think

Has the Conservative Party made the housing crisis worse?
Michael Gove
In Brief

Has the Conservative Party made the housing crisis worse?

Russian roulette for McDonald’s, Unilever and Renault
The flagship McDonald's on Pushkin Square in Moscow
The latest on . . .

Russian roulette for McDonald’s, Unilever and Renault

Popular articles

The mysterious Russian oligarch deaths
Vladimir Putin has previously deployed ‘extreme measures’ to crush opposition
Why we’re talking about . . .

The mysterious Russian oligarch deaths

Depp v. Heard: what the latest battle has revealed
Amber Heard
In Depth

Depp v. Heard: what the latest battle has revealed

Is Vladimir Putin seriously ill?
Vladimir Putin
Why we’re talking about . . .

Is Vladimir Putin seriously ill?

The Week Footer Banner