After a series of provocations over the past week, including an incursion across the Naval Limit Line (NLL), a short-range missile launch off its eastern coast, and a ballistic missile launch, North Korea tested a multiple-rocket launcher, capable of striking targets beyond Seoul.
According to the South Korean Defense Ministry, four rockets were launched on Tuesday. The origin of the launch appeared to be Wonsan which is a small coastal city east of Pyongyang. The rockets flew 96 miles northeastward, ending up in the East Sea.
The launch coincides with U.S.-South Korean joint military exercises. The “Foal Eagle” exercises began in late February and are likely what prompted the NLL incursion and short-range missile launches last week as well. North Korea protested the military exercise, threatening to cancel planned family reunions between North and South Korean families divided by the Korean War armistice.Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
Although the family reunion did occur, the North continues to express its displeasure at the military exercises. The tests are also generally seen as a warning to the South, exhibiting the North’s military capabilities.
In general, North Korea tests rockets and missiles regularly to ensure that they are functional, but often times the tests for political effect. The latest round of provocations comes not only amid the U.S.-South Korea exercises, but also as talks of a resumption of the Six Party Talks seem to be picking up steam – at least in China.
The United States has said that a return to the talks will be impossible without North Korea demonstrating that it is serious about pursuing denuclearization by showing a clear shift in its policy direction and acceding to the 2005 joint statement signed by the United States, North Korea, and South Korea. The North’s Korean Central News Agency noted in a report that North Korea maintained its right to test rockets and “would not abandon its nuclear deterrent for the sake of dialogue.”
As we previously reported, the North Korean rockets missed a Chinese Shenyang-bound flight “by minutes.” The China Southern Airlines passenger aircraft was carrying 220 aboard and passed through the trajectory of a rocket launched by North Korea.