Kim Jong-un trying to evolve tactics that will pay dividends

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The North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is feeling the weight of sanctions. He tried to improve relations with the US President Donald Trump. They met for the first time in Singapore. That was in June last year. The two leaders apparently talked about denuclearization. They also arrived at some understanding. However, there was very little to show for it from Kim’s side. Therefore, the two sides met again in February this year. This time the venue was Hanoi but it fizzled out. Subsequently, Kim Jong-un went to Russia. He met President Putin in the end of April. Soon afterwards, on May 4, North Korea conducted a ballistic missile test after 522 days. It is quite possible that North Korea wants to break out of its isolation. It wants to increase its reach to the international community. Alternatively – it could be a sort of warning message for the Trump administration.

Pyongyang reactivates its missile activities

Within two months of the Hanoi summit that was a non-starter, Pyongyang was active on the missile front. It began with a new type of solid-fuel short-range ballistic missile. Then came testing of two separate multiple rocket launch systems. Subsequently, it launched several new short-range ballistic missiles. One of these traveled for slightly more than 400 kilometers. Of course, the United States and its ally South Korea tried to downplay the incidents.

What are the implications?

The sudden renewed interest in NK’s missile testing might look ominous. The feel good atmosphere between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un with plenty of photo shoots disappeared. Observers fear Pyongyang could revive its confrontational attitude with the US. It has already tested its ICBMs and had even identified a few American targets. Pyongyang probably views the renewal of the United States and South Korea joint military exercise with concern. The North Korean leader interprets it as violation of a direct commitment U.S. President Donald Trump had made.

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