While North Korea’s repeated missile tests and defiance of international sanctions may seem erratic to onlookers, Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un‘s latest move demonstrates a “very rational” strategy based on an “sense of acute timing,” one strategist told CNBC.
Philippe Dauba-Pantanacce, global geopolitical strategist at Standard Chartered Bank, explained that the pariah state’s latest missile test was timed specifically while U.S. President Donald Trump was busy with Hurricane Harvey, and a coherent coalition between China, Russia and other international players is yet to be assembled. The most recent missile flew over the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido earlier this week.
“From (Kim Jong Un’s) perspective, basically all options on the table for the international community are bad, and he knows that,” Dauba-Pantanacce said. So, Kim Jong Un is strengthening his hand by trying “to get to the point where he’s recognized as a nuclear power,” he added.
“The latest missile launch, and what he’s been trying to do, is actually very rational. The latest launch was responding to a technical imperative,” Dauba-Pantanacce explained. Kim’s move to test the missile at a more horizontal angle was “to prove that they can reach a certain distance” – namely, North Korea’s threat against the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam. Up until now, missile tests have been vertical, Dauba-Pantanacce added.
The international community seems to be stuck between a rock and a hard place. “Upping the rhetoric is dangerous,” Dauba-Pantanacce argued, saying that this sets precedent for stronger moves to come. This could be difficult to achieve given the “fragile, if not fractured coalition” at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).