If North Korea desired to capture America’s attention, it seems to have worked.
Having brushed off two smaller missile tests under a week ago, this time President Joe Biden condemned the ballistic missile launches, which have been in violation of a United Nations resolution.
“We’re consulting with our allies and partners, and there will be answers,” Biden stated during his first news conference as president Thursday. “If they choose to escalate, we’ll respond accordingly.”
Although Biden described North Korea as his main threat, it is probably not the top priority for a presidency dominated so far by national coronavirus retrieval and clashes with China on the global stage.
“North Korean nuclear issues were never likely to be high up the Biden administration’s policy agenda,” stated Tom Plant, manager of proliferation and nuclear policy in the Royal United Services Institute, a London think tank. “North Korea is doing what it is to resolve that. It wants to be noticed.”
This was straight from the playbook for Pyongyang, which has a history of acting high-profile weapons tests to send messages into fresh U.S. administrations.
Its state-controlled KCNA news agency said the 2.5 ton missiles had correctly hit a goal some 370 miles away from its coast. South Korean officials previously said the distance was 270 milesper hour
Whatever the distance, it had been an escalation and the timing seems no coincidence.
Last week Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin visited South Korea and Japan, while Biden’s policy review on North Korea is impending.
That inspection will say a great deal about how his administration wants to deal with North Korea, a seemingly intractable problem whose answer has evaded multiple presidents across decades.
The U.S. says it’s been striving in vain to make contact with the North because denuclearization talks stalled under President Donald Trump. It’s highly improbable Biden will follow exactly the same warlike brinkmanship embraced by his predecessor, but he has taken a far tougher rhetorical line in regards to Kim personally, who was lionized occasionally by Trump but branded a”thug” by Biden last year.
Contrary to Trump Biden has always known as North Korea’s human rights abuses, which that a U.N. panel has compared to the atrocities committed by the Nazis. He’s also called for the plan to abandon its atomic weapons — something many experts say it’ll never do peacefully.
“I am also ready for some kind of diplomacy, however, it has to be determined upon the end result of denuclearization,” Biden said Thursday.
Watchdogs believe Pyongyang has as many as 60 atomic weapons. Some experts believe it’s the ability to mount them on intercontinental ballistic missiles that can hit the mainland U.S.
Last week North Korea labeled Biden’s approach a”cheap trick,” saying it won’t talk until the U.S. abandons its”hostile” policy.
But North Korea does have to speak, many experts concur.
The cocktail of Covid-19, widespread flooding and international sanctions have battered the country — already isolated and largely impoverished — shrinking its market and causing widespread food shortages.
Kim”needs to get some sort of dialogue going with the Americans that will lead to some kind of sanctions relief,” John Nilsson-Wright, a senior research fellow at Chatham House, a London think tank, said.
Its screen of ballistic missiles this week could be its endeavor to introduce another type of traditional weapon that it is prepared to deal with, based on Nilsson-Wright, that also teaches international relations and Western politics at Cambridge University.
Cheong Seong-Chang, a senior research fellow at the Sejong Institute in Seoul, said the Biden administration should”use China’s role, as North Korea desperately wants China’s supply of petroleum and Chinese allies to sustain its faltering economy.”
Other people say the launch wasn’t about the U.S.
The 2.5-ton warhead might have been an attempt at one-upmanship after South Korea tested its missile last year with a 2-ton payload, based on Ankit Panda, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington think tank.
Markus Garlauskas, who until this past year was the U.S. national intelligence officer for North Korea, likewise disagrees the launches were just”a cry for attention” from Washington.
He sees them as a sign of North Korea’s”clear conclusion to continue advancing its own ballistic missile programs.” “If those go unchecked by the international community, this is very likely to result in launches of larger and more capable systems, such as those capable of carrying multiple nuclear warheads,” said Garlauskas, now a senior fellow with the Atlantic Council think tank.
The United Nations Security Council Sanctions Committee on North Korea will meet Friday in response to the missile launches, a spokesperson for the U.S. Mission into the U.N. stated, since the Global community weighs its response.