North Korea recently carried out its fifth provocative missile launch of the year. According to a source in the country, Pyongyang moved up the dates of their launches for strategic reasons.

North Korean authorities fired off two projectiles on Tuesday morning, presumably cruise missiles. Prior to this, North Korea fired a ballistic missile from Yanggang Province towards the East Sea on Jan. 5 and launched a hypersonic missile on Jan. 11, with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in attendance.

North Korea also launched pairs of KN-23 and KN-24 short-range ballistic missiles on Jan. 14 and 17, respectively.

According to a high-ranking Daily NK source on Wednesday. North Korea compressed its launch frequency to conduct five launches in 20 days to get the US to move North Korea up in its list of diplomatic priorities.

As late as the end of last year, North Korean authorities had no plans to test so many missiles in so short a time, the source said. 

That is to say, the authorities simply had plans to conduct test launches of strategic weapons timed with national holidays through the end of the year to “fulfill tasks” in the state’s five-year defense development plan. 

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un seen speaking at the Fourth Plenary Meeting of the Eighth Workers’ Party of Korea Central Committee. / Image: KCNA/Yonhap News

However, during the Fourth Plenary Meeting of the Eighth Central Committee late last year, Kim called for an end to the idea that “tests in the defense science sector” must be timed to national holidays, and ordered officials to prepare so that the nation can conduct tests of any kind whenever the need arises. The source said the defense industry sector and State Academy of Defense Sciences responded by accelerating efforts to meet this new demand.

In particular, with their concentrated barrage of missile tests, North Korean authorities reportedly hope to do two things: make North Korea a higher diplomatic priority in Washington, and resolve domestic problems with a diplomatic issue, be it conflict or dialogue.

North Korean authorities reportedly feel a sense of crisis about being put on Washington’s back burner as the Biden administration focuses on China and Russia.

In fact, US President Joe Biden made no mention of North Korea during his press conference on Jan. 19 to mark his first year in office.

The US responded to North Korea’s consecutive ballistic missile launches with unilateral sanctions on Jan. 12 and by convening a U.N. Security Council meeting on Jan. 20, but a vote on additional sanctions came to nothing as China asked to postpone it.

However, the source said North Korean authorities want the US administration to intensify the North Korea issue with official position announcements or direct statements by high-ranking figures rather than “quiet actions.”

He further noted that public discontent in North Korea is reaching extremes as the border closure continues, and the authorities believe that because they cannot open the border right away, they can keep existing public sentiment stable only by aggravating tensions with the “US imperialists.”

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Seulkee Jang is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about her articles to