[How North Korea’s weapons test Saturday threatened President Trump’s diplomatic achievement.]
When the missiles were launched on Thursday, Stephen Biegun, Mr. Trump’s special envoy for North Korea, was in South Korea for talks on how to restart discussions with Mr. Kim’s negotiators. Mr. Biegun had also been expected to discuss food aid that the South plans to provide to the North as an incentive.
A North Korea expert in Seoul, Lee Byong-chul, said the timing was no coincidence.
“With this launching, North Korea is making clear that it is demanding more than the mere humanitarian food aid South Korea and the United States are discussing,” said Mr. Lee, of the Institute for Far Eastern Studies at Kyungnam University.
Analysts have noted that North Korea’s decision to launch short-range projectiles suggested that Mr. Kim had not given up hope on resuming negotiations. Mr. Trump has repeatedly cited Mr. Kim’s moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests as a reason to continue talks with the North.
With the United States still indicating that it is willing to continue talks, Mr. Kim is “posturing for what’s going to happen when they get there,” Michael Bosack, a special adviser for government relations at the Yokosuka Council on Asia-Pacific Studies in Japan, said after Thursday’s launches.
“The U.S. has not said, ‘If you keep doing this we’re cutting off talks,’” Mr. Bosack said. “Even after this last test this past weekend, the response from the U.S. was ‘we still want to talk,’ so this is to generate urgency and improve his position at the negotiating table.”
One of the projectiles the North launched last weekend appeared to be the Russian Iskander short-range ballistic missile. The weapon can make course corrections during its flight, making it difficult to shoot down with ballistic-missile defenses, according to experts.
Michael Elleman, the interim director of the nonproliferation and nuclear policy program at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said North Korea may have imported the missile directly from Moscow or through a third party.