On Saturday morning, North Korea launched a ballistic missile, which exploded seconds after taking off. The launch came as the UN Security Council was holding a ministerial-level meeting on the North Korean nuclear issue. It was Pyongyang's way of sending a message to the international community that it will not give in.
There are three reasons why Pyongyang tests missiles. Missile research and development require testing, but they don't frequently happen. Missile tests are North Korea's way of expressing its dissatisfaction, and the most recent test is a typical example. Pyongyang also attempts to use missile tests to boost North Korean public morale, and they're often held during the country's key anniversaries.
Today's missile launch is an outdated confrontational mentality. But the test's failure shows that the country's missile technology is not mature, and that the missile-launching vehicle paraded on the Day of the Sun not long ago may have only been a mock-up.
If North Korea's test continue to fail, this will not enhance its deterrence, and may instead cause contempt from the US, Japan and South Korea. Washington would think Pyongyang is far from possessing missiles that could reach US soil.
However, Pyongyang's threats to Washington and its provocations against the Trump administration are separate. April 29th marks Trump's first 100 days in office. North Korea's defiance has somewhat embarrassed Trump after he met with 100 senators and 15 UN ambassadors on the North Korea nuclear issue.
But it is worth noting that North Korea has yet to conduct its sixth nuclear test. It staged missile tests on April 16 and 29, both of which failed.
Meanwhile, despite the Trump administration's recent moves to address the North Korean nuclear issue, including a possible military option, they said they would like to solve the matter diplomatically.
The situation on the Korean Peninsula is complicated. Both Washington and Pyongyang are playing a game of chicken, and their moves and messages are difficult to interpret.
China firmly upholds the UN Security Council resolutions, and its tough sanctions on North Korea are taking effect. Beijing's call for Washington to lighten military pressure on Pyongyang is also playing a part. The USS Carl Vinson-led strike group is sending an ambiguous signal, and is reportedly around the Philippines on April 28.
It is unclear if the US and North Korea are heeding Beijing's call. Beijing must remain steadfast in its position, which is opposed to North Korea's development of nuclear and missile technologies and hopes to convince Pyongyang that it would face harsher sanctions, including an oil embargo, if it conducts new nuclear tests.
Beijing should also stick to its "suspension for suspension" and "dual-track" approach. It should also require the US to ease its military threat against Pyongyang and show that it's willing to peacefully resolve the Korean Peninsula issue, and not threaten the survival of Pyongyang's regime.
The latest failed missile test won't have strong repercussions, but tensions on the peninsula will linger, and all scenarios remain possible. Beijing should guide Washington to accurately understand the situation, and strengthen communication with Pyongyang to prevent it from more risky adventures. If North Korea does not carry out its sixth nuclear test or launch intercontinental ballistic missiles, then hope remains on the peninsula.