DPRK’s latest missile launch might be diplomatic gambit

The Japanese government believes that Friday’s firing of at least one ballistic missile by North Korea, the third such occasion this year, might be part of diplomatic maneuvering as well as technological development. It is accelerating efforts to analyze Pyongyang’s intentions and other matters.

Following North Korea’s repeated ballistic missile launches, the U.S. government on Wednesday designated a total of eight entities and individuals linked to the development of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles as targets of sanctions. They include six North Korean nationals.

According to North Korea’s official Central News Agency, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson issued a statement Friday morning, saying, “If the U.S. adopts such a confrontational stance, the DPRK will be forced to take stronger and certain reaction to it.” A source close to the Japanese Foreign Ministry said that the latest missile launch is likely intended to express opposition to the United States.

Regarding the recent series of missile launches, a senior Defense Ministry official pointed to the Beijing Winter Olympics, set to start on Feb. 4, saying: “If Pyongyang launches missiles during the events, it will cause Beijing to lose face. So they need to do test launches before the start of the Games.”

North Korea claims that it launched hypersonic missiles on Jan. 5 and 11. Hypersonic missiles can achieve more than five times the speed of sound, making it harder for ground-based radar to track them. For both launches, the Japanese government could not release detailed information until the following day.

In the wake of the latest missile launch, Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi released a variety information about three hours after the launch, such as the fact that North Korea had launched at least one ballistic missile and the highest altitude that the missile reached. “Since we assumed that the latest missile would be a short-range ballistic missile, it was easier for us to track its altitude and distance,” a senior officer at the Self-Defense Forces said.