SEOUL—It’s one of North Korea’s time-tested tactics: welcome a new U.S. administration with a provocative weapons test.
With Thursday’s ballistic-missile launch, North Korea has now tried to use military fireworks to grab the attention of a new White House over four consecutive presidencies. The aggression hasn’t proven very successful, as Pyongyang ended up more sanctions-strapped than it had before.
But this time, the Kim Jong Un regime and the Biden administration find themselves with little leverage to force the other side to bend to their demands.
North Korea’s weapons tests haven’t compelled the U.S. to bring a substantially different stance to stalled disarmament talks. Pyongyang’s spree of short-range missile launches in recent years have also been played down by Washington, giving the Kim regime latitude to advance its weaponry but lessening the shock value.
Compared with weapons tests carried out at the start of previous U.S. presidencies, North Korea’s test of two short-range ballistic missiles on Thursday was relatively modest. Former President Barack Obama, weeks into his second term in February 2013, saw Pyongyang detonate a nuclear bomb.