Silence from Pyongyang on Wednesday's missile launch
Local experts surmised the test might have fell short of the North’s expectations, or that Pyongyang is planning another test and wants to brag about the launches together.
On Wednesday, Pyongyang launched what appeared to be a ballistic missile into the East Sea, just six days before Yoon Suk-yeol becomes the 20th president of South Korea.
The missile flew 470 kilometers (292 miles) after reaching an apogee of 780 kilometers with a top speed of Mach 11.
Considering the high altitude, some North Korean watchers suggested the missile could have been a Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) or a completely new missile that had never been tested.
North Korea usually boasts of its missile tests the very next day through its official mouthpieces, the Rodong Sinmun and Korea Central News Agency (KCNA), but neither outlet made mention of Wednesday’s launch on Thursday.
It could be that Wednesday’s test wasn’t as successful as the North hoped. South Korean government officials, however, said the test didn’t appear to be a failure, per se, since it didn’t explode, as some previous missiles have.
One of the most recent failed tests was conducted on March 16 when the North test-fired a Hwasong-17 ICBM - only to see it explode in mid-air. North Korean media didn’t report on that test at all.
Hong Min, head of North Korean research at the Korea Institute for National Unification, a Seoul-based think tank, pointed out that after that unsuccessful ICBM test, Pyongyang was still in the process of making technical changes to its long-range missiles, and, therefore, felt no need to specify something that was in the works.
“It appears that Pyongyang strategically chose to side with ambiguity rather than raising doubts by announcing specific data at a time when it’s still lagging behind technically,” said Hong.
Ryu Seong-yeob, a researcher at the Korea Research Institute for Military Affairs, said the North might follow up on Wednesday’s launch with several more tests in coming days and report on the tests all together for more publicity.
When the North fired two cruise missiles into the East Sea on Jan. 25, it wasn’t until after it fired two more ballistic missiles on Jan. 27 that it reported on all the launches on Jan. 28.
Kim In-tae, a senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Strategy, raised the possibility that Pyongyang might soon reveal a “package” of military threats in time for Yoon’s inauguration on Tuesday and the South Korea-U.S. summit planned for May 21.
U.S. President Joe Biden is expected to visit Seoul from May 20 to 22.
BY LEE SUNG-EUN, PARK HYUN-JU [firstname.lastname@example.org]