Anything is possible with 'Lil Kim, but I don't think deliberately failing the missile tests is one of them. Rather I think he was testing our resolve and our new missile defense system. Here is a good rundown of the missile firings (though it was published before today's firing of a seventh missile).
The North Koreans fired an interesting assortment of ordnance with varying range bands. The 9,300—mile—range Taepodong—2, the 620—mile—range Nodong missile, and a Scud—type missile with a range of 300 to 500 miles. The article says the Taepodong failed after 42 seconds. I'm not sure how far downrange that is, but all of the missiles landed in the East China Sea and Japan Sea.
We said that we were prepared to shoot down the Taepodong—2 if it "appeared to be heading to U.S. or allied territory." How close to Japan (landing in the Japan Sea) an ally, or how close to Okinawa (landing in the East China Sea) where US forces are stationed does the missile have to get before we shoot it down?
Think back to the incident with the USS Vincennes shooting down the Iranian airliner during the Tanker Wars. The airliner was squawking an F—14 code from its IFF, all passengers were non—Iranian or Iranian expats, and the aircraft directly overflew the sometimes confusing situation in the Persian Gulf. Khomeni and his generals had nothing to lose. If the US Navy engaged and hit the target, valuable intelligence would be gained on US systems and a major propaganda victory would be handed to the mullahs. If we engaged and missed, intelligence would be gathered and protests lodged. If we didn't engage, no harm, no foul, and Iran is left guessing as to why we didn't engage (i.e., we didn't detect it at all, or made the decision not to).
Arguably, the NK test could have had similar goals. Not only did Kim thumb his nose at the US on Independence Day, but I would wager his electronic "ears" were on gathering any and all SIGINT and ELINT about our responses or lack thereof.
Douglas Hanson 7 5 06