Three ballistic missiles crashed into the sea off the coast of North Korea on Monday, the latest salvo in Pyongyang’s fight for international attention. Reuters reports:
The missiles were fired from a region south of the capital Pyongyang just after noon local time (0300 GMT) and flew about 1,000 km (600 miles), hitting Japan’s air defense identification zone, the South’s Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
“We are still analyzing details but this is a grave threat to our nation’s security, and we express deep concern,” the Japan Defence Ministry said in a statement.
The missile launches were the latest in a series of launches by the isolated North this year in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions, supported by China, that ban all ballistic missile-related activities by the North.
Beijing has been pointing to its cooperation at the UN as evidence that it takes concerns about its restive ally seriously. But sanctions and international condemnation clearly aren’t going far enough. North Korea’s launches, particularly coming in the midst of China’s G20 party, are therefore deeply embarrassing for Beijing. They reinforce Japanese and South Korean suspicions that China won’t control North Korea. And to those who think Beijing is sincere, the North’s behavior indicates that China isn’t strong enough or clever enough to control Pyongyang.
With U.S. coverage of the G20 summit focused on the bad optics of President Obama’s undignified deplaning in Hangzhou, these missile launches offer an opportunity for the White House to change the conversation and raise concerns among allies torn between cooperating with Beijing and pushing back harder.
When North Korea misbehaves, China loses.