Officials in Seoul have confirmed nearly 100 missile, rocket and artillery tests by North Korea this year. While North Korea routinely tests short-range projectiles, the number of launches this year has been much higher than in previous years.
The regular test-firings of short-range projectiles, analysts say, are the latest signal that the country’s young leader, Kim Jong Un, is determined to do things differently than his father, dictator Kim Jong Il, who died in late 2011. And analysts see no end to the test-firings in sight.
Kim Jong Un, who pushed tensions to extraordinary levels last year with threats of nuclear strikes against Seoul and Washington, will likely order his military to keep up the launches, they say, until the United States and South Korea make major concessions such as scaling down their regular joint military drills that Pyongyang insists are an invasion rehearsal. That’s a major contrast to the style of Kim’s father, who sparingly used longer-range missile and nuclear tests more as negotiating cards with the outside world to win concessions.
The continued launches show North Korea’s leader is pushing to strengthen military capabilities because his country feels threatened by U.S.-South Korean military drills even as it pushes for talks with the allies, said Lim Eul Chul, a North Korea expert at South Korea’s Kyungnam University.
Kim Jong Un’s push for better ties with Seoul and Washington are seen by outside analysts as an attempt to help lure international aid and investment to revive the country’s moribund economy. South Korean and U.S. officials have largely dismissed the North’s overtures, saying the country must first take steps toward nuclear disarmament.