The skyline of Pyongyang was shrouded in haze last week as the 105th birth anniversary of founding father Kim Il-sung dawned. There was nothing but quiet outside my hotel window.
But while the noise from the previous day’s huge military parade had faded, the news from the military had not. Moments before, a couple of hundred kilometres east, North Korea had tested another missile from its submarine base at Sinpo.
Like the fireworks celebrating the country’s most important holiday the night before, the missile had exploded not far off the ground. Unlike the fireworks, though, the average North Korean had no idea it had happened.
That’s because the timing had been meant to send a message to another audience: the United States and the rest of the world.
Washington declared the test a failure, with one official saying, “it fizzled.” The New York Times called it an “embarrassment” for North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
In fact, the test succeeded in one very important way.
The bang was big enough that the signal was clear: Pyongyang intends to keep pursuing its missile and nuclear weapons program, in defiance of the U.S., the UN and even China, its only ally.
‘Nuclear strike warfare’
Indeed, it may have been the best result possible for North Korea. Any test bigger or more powerful might have forced the United States to act. No test at all might have led Washington to believe Pyongyang was having second thoughts.
The day before, North Korea made a show of what it claims are advances in its rocket technology. It displayed what seemed like several missiles that had never been seen before: the Pukguksong-1, a submarine-based medium-range weapon, and the canisters of what could be new intercontinental ballistic missiles.
“If the United States wages reckless provocation against us,” said one of the country’s most influential politicians, Choe Ryong Hae, “our revolutionary power will instantly counter with annihilating strike, and we will respond to full-out war with full-out war and to nuclear war with our style of nuclear strike warfare.”
On the balcony overlooking the missiles, Kim Jong-un listened and clapped. He is expanding his reach, and the world is reacting.
After dozens of missile tests and five underground nuclear explosions, he feels he is getting the attention and respect he has always craved.
The United States, on the other hand, seems unsure what to do.
All options ‘on the table’
Days before, with great fanfare, U.S. President Donald Trump announced that a U.S. naval strike force, including the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, was…