Why Does N.Korea Keep Firing Missiles?

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un gave on-the-spot guidance on Thursday to "strategic western frontline rocket forces," the state-run [North] Korean Central News Agency reported.

A government official here said that probably means Kim was present when troops fired two Scud missiles from a site in Hwanghae Province only about 40 km from the military demarcation line into the East Sea on early Wednesday morning.

The North has fired four Scud missiles and five rockets from a new multiple rocket launcher on four occasions over the past two weeks, and Kim was apparently present every time except on July 2.

There is speculation that the North has stepped up provocations in protest against Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to South Korea on July 3-4 or regular U.S.-China dialogue on July 9-10. According to experts this may have been an attempt to deliver a message to Seoul, Washington, and Beijing.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un watches a rocket launch drill in this photo published by the Rodong Sinmun on Thursday. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un watches a rocket launch drill in this photo published by the Rodong Sinmun on Thursday.

Expressing satisfaction with the successful launch of the Scud missiles on Wednesday, Kim said, "We should be prepared for both words and actions. We could become a bargaining chip for the strong… if we are weak."

Prof. Nam Sung-wook of Korea University said, "That could be a message to Seoul as well as Washington and Beijing that the North will keep heightening military tensions unless its demands are met."

"The North was trying to show that it's not holding an empty gun," another government official said.

There is another speculation that the North is deliberately flouting a UN Security Council resolution banning it from launching ballistic missiles.

The UNSC in a statement in March accused the North of violating the resolution. The latest launch came only six days after the South Korean and Chinese leaders again urged it to comply with the resolution.

Yet another speculation is that these are simple missile tests to improve performance.

The government official said, "It seems that the North is now seeking to increase its missile capability while keeping a close eye on the reaction of its neighbors."

englishnews@chosun.com / Jul. 11, 2014 10:19 KST