North Korea fails to shoot off its mouth

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North Korea fails to shoot off its mouth

North Korea launched two short-range ballistic missiles into the East Sea on March 25, following the end of U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises. Speculation is rising that the North may break its months-long silence to respond to joint exercises by the allies in August. [YONHAP]

North Korea launched two short-range ballistic missiles into the East Sea on March 25, following the end of U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises. Speculation is rising that the North may break its months-long silence to respond to joint exercises by the allies in August. [YONHAP]

 
North Korea allowed major holidays in the United States and China to pass in July without significant remarks or any unusual military movements, raising speculation about the regime's unusual silence.
 
In the past, Pyongyang has marked U.S. Independence Day on July 4 with missile test launches and strongly worded denunciations of Washington. This year, the U.S. holiday passed without comment.
 
In July 2017, the North first successfully launched an intercontinental ballistic missile, which North Korean leader Kim Jong Un described as “a gift” to “American bastards” on their national independence day, according to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
 
On last year's July 4, the North celebrated the third anniversary of that missile test. The same day, senior North Korean diplomat Choe Son Hui, a veteran of negotiations with the United States, issued a statement blaming the United States for the breakdown of dialogue between the two countries.
 
Carried by the KCNA, Choe's statement noted that North Korea had in place a “detailed strategic timetable” to deal with the “long-term threat from the U.S” and accused Washington of pursuing a “hostile policy” towards Pyongyang.
 
Two days later, North Korea fired a ship-to-ship cruise missile from waters off its east coast.
 
However, the United States is not the only country the North has treated with silence in recent months.
 
Holidays in neighboring China, the North’s closest formal ally and main aid benefactor, are usually times when Pyongyang dispatches delegations to Beijing and makes gestures of goodwill. However, Kim congratulated Chinese President Xi Jinping on the centenary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party with only a message this year.
 
As an illustration of the North’s deepening silence in recent months, even its reliably strident denunciations of the United States have been shorter, though no less cutting.
 
On March 16, when the North Korean leader’s sister Kim Yo-jong and Choe issued statements targeting the United States, their statements were 2,041 and 1,337 characters long, respectively. However, when Kim issued a statement rejecting further dialogue with the United States on June 22, it was only 173 characters long – or four sentences.
 
Some analysts attribute the North’s neglect of its main outside foe and ally to a focus on domestic troubles.
 
A government official who was previously involved in North Korean denuclearization efforts said on condition of anonymity, “Although the North’s traditional strategy to strengthen its negotiating stance vis-à-vis the United States is to undertake a major provocation after the U.S. presidential election, it appears that internal conditions and the ongoing economic crisis is preventing it from doing that.”
 
However, just as the North broke its silence following the inauguration of U.S. President Joe Biden by launching multiple short-range ballistic missiles after joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises concluded in March, it remains possible that the North will once again respond to joint exercises in August with renewed demonstrations of force.

BY MICHAEL LEE,PARK HYUN-JU [lee.junhyuk@joongang.co.kr]
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