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North Korea Launches Three Missiles Into Eastern Sea

May 18, 2013
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Five days ago, when describing the launch of the joint-US, South Korean naval military exercise in the East Sea, we said that "for all his endless posturing, North Korea's Un has done absolutely nothing. And if his inability and unwillingness to translate threats into actions continue, that will pretty much be it for North Korea's hope to even get a few loose pennies as a nuisance factor" be it from the US, Japan, South Korea, or anyone else who is listening. It seems the North Korean leader has taken the hint, and overnight escalated from merely constant jawboning into at least some variant of activity, when he fired three short-range missiles into the sea off the eastern coast of the Korean peninsula on Saturday, "once again stirring tensions that had appeared to ease in the wake of a recent series of bellicose statements directed at South Korea and the U.S."

WSJ reports that in a short briefing, South Korea's defense ministry said Saturday that North Korea had fired two guided missiles into waters off the Korean peninsula in the morning, followed by a third missile in the afternoon.

"In our judgement, the missiles are short-range guided missiles, not mid-range missiles such as the Musudan," defense ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said. "South Korea's military is on high alert to prepare for any hostile acts from the North following the guided-missile launch today."

This means the launched missile is most likely the appropriately named Nodong:

Is there a reason to be concerned? Hardly, especially for those who have been following the seemingly endlessly escalating rhetoric out of NK, whose only purpose is to extract a nuisance value premium from anyone, just so it shuts up.

Shin Jong-dae, professor at the University of North Korean Studies, said the launches were more likely a means of drawing attention from the international community than a test launch.

"North Korea is an expert at crisis diplomacy or crisis marketing," Mr. Shin said.

Kim Yong-hyun, professor at Dongkuk University's North Korean Studies department, said the North appears to hope that launching missiles will prompt an offer of dialogue from the U.S.

Which is why ignoring the country so far has worked, however like any irrational actor whose only mode of behavior is attempting the same failed action until there is a response (like the Federal Reserve, for example), at some point North Korea, for whom the opportunity cost of actual military escalation is declining with every day it gets no appeasement from the West, may just lash out. Especially if such overt provocations as a US nuclear carrier swimming in its back yard for "naval exercises" continue.

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