Experts believe that North Korea's extraordinaryly rapid pace of testing activities indicates that it is trying to pressurize the Biden administration over the long-stalled negotiations for the release of U.S.-led sanctions against North Korea and the North's steps towards denuclearization.
This pandemic is putting more pressure on the North's economy. It was already under severe sanctions by the U.S. over its nuclear weapons program, as well as decades of poor management by its own government.
The South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff stated that the weapons were likely short-range and were launched five minutes apart at Hamhung, an eastern coastal town. They flew 190 km (118 miles) on an elevation of 20 kilometers (22.4 miles) before landing at sea.
Aviation authorities issued a Notification to Airmen (or NOTAM) to pilots who fly in South Korean airspace. It advised them of a missile launched from North Korea and recommended that they keep close contact with air traffic control officials, according to the South Korean Office of Civil Aviation website.
According to the U.S. Indo Pacific Command, the recent launches were a reminder of the destabilizing effects of North Korea's weapon program but didn't pose an immediate threat to personnel, territory or allies.
Fumio Kishida, the Japanese Prime Minister, confirmed that there had been no damage to aircraft and vessels around Japan's coast. He described the North's repeated missile fires as "extremely regrettable", and a violation of U.N. Security Council Resolutions.
Seoul's presidential office reported that senior South Korean military and security officials met for an emergency meeting of the National Security Council. They expressed deep regret at North Korea's continued launches and asked Pyongyang not to stop talking.
Last week, the North threatened to resume testing nuclear explosives and long range missiles against the American homeland. Kim Jong Un had suspended these tests in 2018, while he initiated diplomacy with the United States.
Kim's summit with Donald Trump in high-stakes was canceled in 2019, after North Korea rejected the Americans' demands for significant sanctions relief in return for partial surrender of its nuclear capability.
Experts believe that North Korea could escalate its weapons demonstrations following the Winter Olympics in China on February 4. This is China's economic and strategic ally.
According to them, Pyongyang's leadership may feel it could use a dramatic provocation in order to move the needle on the Biden administration. The Biden administration has been preoccupied by bigger enemies like Russia and China.
Although the Biden administration offered open-ended negotiations, they did not offer any concessions to Kim unless he takes concrete steps to end the nuclear weapons and missiles that he considers his best guarantee of survival.
Since last fall, the North has increased its testing activities and demonstrated various missiles as well as delivery systems that could be used to defeat missile defense systems within the region.
Experts believe Kim is trying to put more pressure on Washington and Seoul to recognize it as a nuclear-power in the hopes of gaining relief from economic sanctions and converting diplomacy with Washington to mutual arms-reduction negotiation.
Two days earlier, South Korea's military spotted the North testing two cruise missiles at an unspecified area. Thursday's launch was made possible by South Korea's military.
North Korea opened 2022 by firing two test-firings of an alleged hypersonic missile. Kim described it as an asset that would "remarkably strengthen his nuclear deterrent."
Two types of short-range, ballistic missiles that the North has been developing since 2019 were also tested by the North this month. They are maneuverable and can fly at low altitudes. Experts believe this could increase their chances of defeating or evading missile defense systems.
Kim attended a ruling party meeting last week. The North accused the Biden administration in hostility and threats. It stated that it would consider "all temporally suspended activities" it had halted during diplomacy with Trump. This was an apparent threat to resume nuclear explosive testing.
After the Biden administration had imposed new sanctions on the North following its second hypersonic test, Pyongyang's Foreign Ministry warned of a "stronger reaction".
The U.S. Treasury Department placed sanctions on five North Koreans for their role in procuring technology and equipment for the country's missile program. Meanwhile, the State Department issued sanctions against another North Korean, a Russian citizen and a Russian company, for their support of North Korea’s weapon activities.
Washington's attempts to seek U.N. Security Council new sanctions against five North Koreans that were sanctioned last week by the Treasury Department were stopped by China and Russia. They have asked for the U.N. Security Council to lift key sanctions against North Korea, citing its economic problems.
Leif-Eric Easley, a professor from Ewha University, Seoul, stated that "despite efforts to strengthen sanctions," Washington's response to North Korean launches this week is not nearly its reaction to Pyongyang’s provocations in 2017. In 2017, the North carried out an unusually provocative run of nuclear and ICBM test runs.
"U.S. "The U.S. has a more coordinated and measured policy, but it is still not sufficient to change North Korean behavior. He stated that the Biden administration has other priorities. These include pandemic recovery at home, confronting Russia over Ukraine and Iran regarding its nuke program, as well as China across all borders.
According to a U.N. statement, despite international concerns about its weapons activities, North Korea will still be able to chair a U.N. Disarmament Forum during a one month presidency from May 30 to June 24.
The U.N. Conference on Disarmament has 65 members and focuses on nuclear disarmament. Its presidency rotates between member states.
U.N. Watch is a Geneva-based activist group that called for the U.S. ambassadors and European ambassadors not to attend the conference when North Korea was president. U.N. Watch stated that North Korea threatens other U.N. member countries with missiles and commits atrocities to its own people.