North Korean Kim Jong-un tests Joe Biden

What do we know about the latest North Korean test?

The shooting took place from South Hamgyong Province in central North Korea. The missiles traveled 450 km with a maximum altitude of 60 km, according to the South Korean general staff. They fell at sea, outside of Japan’s exclusive economic zone. According to Jeffrey Lewis, professor at the Middlebury Institute of International Affairs in Monterey (United States), these are probably “KN 23”: short-range ballistic missiles, tested for the first time in May 2019.

In what context does this gesture of challenge take place?

The launch comes as the new US administration must complete its strategic “review” towards North Korea. Washington must clarify its choices, between political and economic pressure, via a strengthening of the international sanctions regime, direct dialogue with Pyongyang, as attempted unsuccessfully by Donald Trump, or a combination of the two.

The North Korean provocation would be part of a graduated escalation strategy, depending on the attitude of the Biden administration. More provocative tests could follow, culminating in that of the new intercontinental ballistic missile, exposed by the North Korean regime during a military parade in October 2020. Pyongyang would seek to put itself in a position of strength, including in the eventuality where discussions would begin with Washington.

North Korea has not carried out a nuclear test or an intercontinental ballistic missile since 2017. Donald Trump was the first US president to agree to meet with a North Korean leader in Singapore in June 2018. After the failure of the second Trump-King Jong-un summit, in Vietnam, in February 2019, North Korea resumed a series of short-range ballistic missile tests, between May 2019 and March 2020. After a one-year hiatus, Pyongyang has launched, Sunday March 21, two non-ballistic missiles.

What are the possible options for Joe Biden?

During their tour last week to Japan and South Korea, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin stressed the importance of a “Denuclearization” of North Korea, a term referred to as “ baseless rhetoric “ by Choe Son Hui, North Korean First Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs. Since taking office, the Biden administration has attempted to contact Pyongyang through various channels, to no avail. North Korea also severed diplomatic relations with Malaysia after the extradition of a North Korean businessman on Friday March 19 to be tried in the United States for money laundering and violation. international sanctions.

Any strengthening of international pressure on North Korea implies the participation of China, through which almost all of North Korea’s foreign trade passes. U.S. officials accuse Beijing of doing nothing to prevent North Korean illicit trade in its territorial waters and aiding Pyongyang in its operations to hack financial institutions to fund its nuclear program.

The tone of the first exchanges between the United States and China, on March 18 in Alaska, does not bode well for cooperation between the two countries on this issue. This week, in a message to Chinese President Xi Jinping, Kim Jong-un stresses the need to strengthen unity between the two countries in order to ” to face to hostile forces “.


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