North Korea’s latest missile launch seemed designed to wreak just the right amount of havoc: Enough for Kim Jong Un to show that he wouldn’t be cowed, but not so much as to invite American “fire and fury.”
The missile launched early Tuesday appeared to be a Hwasong-12, the intermediate-range ballistic missile that North Korea has been threatening to shoot into the waters near the U.S. territory of Guam.
But North Korea didn’t shoot it southeast toward Guam. Instead, it lobbed the missile in a northeasterly direction, over Japan and into the Pacific Ocean.
It was, as Stephan Haggard, a political scientist and Korea expert at the University of California at San Diego described it, “perfectly calibrated to create political mischief.”
“The launch shows how Kim Jong Un is weirdly conservative, calibrating tests so that they are difficult to counter, flying just beneath the radar of a required kinetic response,” Haggard said.