North Korea fires two ballistic missiles – days after testing “weapon of great importance”

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Analysis by Tom Cheshire, Asia correspondent

It wasn’t that long ago that you couldn’t go a week without a North Korean missile launch. But the country has been quieter for some time, perhaps as it faced COVID or tough economic conditions.

However, normal service has resumed. And, just like the buses, after a long wait, two launches took place at once.

Over the weekend, the regime announced that it had successfully tested a long-range cruise missile, which it described as a “strategic weapon of great importance” – a code for potentially nuclear.

That may or may not be the case and US and South Korean intelligence services will be looking closely.

There is no doubt about the launch today of two ballistic missiles. Unlike the cruise missile, which was first made public by North Korean state media, Japanese and South Korean officials have reported on the launch.

This indicates that they were larger missiles than they were able to track.

The timing is interesting. Nuclear negotiators from the United States, South Korea and Japan meet in Tokyo.

More unusually, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is in Seoul to discuss the blockade of nuclear diplomacy with President Moon Jae-in.

China is North Korea’s most important friend. Losing missiles while in town just across the border can be taken as a warning to remember which side he’s supposed to be on, and the capacity and threat that North Korea poses. more generally.

Then there was the judgment last month by the UN that North Korea restarted its nuclear reactor, potentially producing plutonium for warheads.

Add to that a grand military parade in the capital Pyongyang – where we saw a new refined Kim Jong Un – and the clear message is that North Korea is back in business.

The problem had been parked for the start of the Biden administration, as the world grappled with COVID-19. North Korea’s recent actions are a reminder that it is far from resolved.

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