North Korea's reassuring sign of aggression

It is actually a good sign that North Korea fired off 25 rockets to protest US-South Korea military exercises. Whenever the two allies stage joint maneuvers the North feels obligated to do something in protest, such as fire missiles into the open sea. But this time, with young Kim Jong Un in charge, the demonstration of aggression was pretty weak. Paula Hancocks and K.J. Kwon of CNN report:

The rockets appear to FROGs, which stands for "Free Rockets Over Ground." They were developed in the Soviet Union before the advent of missiles, [South Korean spokesman] Kim said.

"It does not have a guidance system and is (a) free-fall system. North Korea had developed it in the '60s," the spokesman said.

Earlier Sunday, South Korea said the rockets appeared to travel about 70 kilometers into the Sea of Japan, according to defense officials 

These half century-old weapons are not exactly intimidating. North Korea was evidently unwilling to expend more resources in firing off its more advanced missiles, perhaps because doing so would deplete supplies of missiles or fuel. It may actually be a signal of weakness, of an inability to do more at the moment. Or it may signal divisions within the ruling class over how to deal with the Americans and the South.

The Hermit Kingdom remains amazingly opaque, the most dictatorial government on earth, one armed with nuclear weapons and in fear for its survival. That it resorts to firecracker-equivalent military displays is a good thing, as far as we can tell.

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