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On both sides of Korean Peninsula, eyes are on Washington's response to Russia

With the Games now over and the Biden administration’s attention fixed on Ukraine, North Korea might decide it’s time to resume weapons tests, to gain more diplomatic leverage with Washington.

February 26, 2022 / 09:46 PM IST
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (AP file image)

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (AP file image)

Both North and South Korea are likely to be closely watching the American response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, though for different reasons, analysts say.

North Korea carried out a flurry of missile tests in January, but none this month — possibly out of deference to its neighbor and ally China, which was hosting the Winter Olympics. With the Games now over and the Biden administration’s attention fixed on Ukraine, North Korea might decide it’s time to resume weapons tests, to gain more diplomatic leverage with Washington.

“The crisis in Ukraine gives North Korea more room for options, whether it’s a long-range missile test or even a nuclear test,” said Cheon Seong-whun, a former head of the Korea Institute for National Unification, a government-funded research institute in Seoul.

In South Korea, many people will see Washington’s response to Russia’s invasion as a test of its dependability as a military ally, said Lee Byong-chul, a professor of political science at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies at Kyungnam University in Seoul.