BEIJING -- North Korea is apparently attempting to pressure the fledgling administration of U.S. President Donald Trump to enter negotiations at an early date with its launch of a ballistic missile shortly after the recent Japan-U.S. summit.
Pyongyang has paid close attention to how the Trump government will deal with North Korea since the previous administration of President Barack Obama refused to engage in dialogue with the country.
State broadcaster Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that North Korea had launched a new medium-range strategic ballistic missile, in a test aimed at checking the attitude control system of the missile stage that can carry a nuclear warhead at the time of atmospheric re-entry. KCNA also stressed that it test-fired the missile to a higher altitude in return for reducing its range in consideration of the safety of North Korea's neighbors.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has repeatedly hinted at the possibility of launching an inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM), declaring in his New Year's message on Jan. 1 this year that preparations to test-fire an ICBM have entered the final stage.
Feb. 16 marks the birthday of late Kim Jong Il, the former North Korean leader and Kim Jong Un's father, and U.S. forces will launch a regular joint exercise with South Korean military next month. Observers have pointed out that Pyongyang could perform some kind of provocative act on these occasions.
However, some experts say that North Korea may ascertain U.S. policy toward North Korea before deciding whether to go ahead with the launch of an ICBM or another nuclear test. (By Shoji Nishioka, China General Bureau)