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By the Numbers: The Frequency of North Korean Missile Tests Under Kim Jong-un


By Troy Stangarone

Since Moon Jae-in won the South Korean presidency in May, North Korea has conducted five missile tests. This is somewhat of a quickened pace of tests, with five tests in the four weeks of the Moon presidency, but not unprecedented by North Korean standards. North Korea conducted seven tests, for example, in a four week time period in 2014. Based on the dataset maintained by Beyond Parallel, North Korea conducted 20 missile tests in 2016, the most since Kim Jong-un succeeded his father in late 2012, and only a handful of tests less than all of the tests North Korea conducted under Kim Jong-il.

Since assuming leadership in North Korea, Kim Jong-un averaged 10.8 missile tests per year in the 2012-2016 period. Though, these numbers are driven up by the higher volume of tests in recent years. In 2012 and 2013, North Korea conducted a total of eight missile tests. If those initial years are excluded and only the more recent period where the rate of testing has increased are examined, the average is 15.3 tests per year in the 2014-2016 period.

 

While there is no linear pattern to North Korea’s missile tests, if North Korean tests continue at the same pace as they have so far this year we should expect a new missile test every 2.1 weeks and another 13-14 tests. If that is the case, which it may not be, North Korea would exceed last year’s total number of missile tests by 3-4 tests.

The international community should be prepared to more quickly respond to the advancing pace of North Korea’s missile tests by preparing a menu of tightening multilateral sanctions options that have been informally agreed to in advance.

Troy Stangarone is the Senior Director for Congressional Affairs at the Korea Economic Institute of America. The views expressed here are the author’s alone.

Photo from Prachatai’s photostream on flickr Creative Commons.

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4 Responses to “By the Numbers: The Frequency of North Korean Missile Tests Under Kim Jong-un”

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  1. […] Institute of America's senior director for congressional affairs, noted in a June 9 piece published in the Peninsula that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has "averaged 10.8 missile tests per year in the […]

  2. […] few UN Security Council resolutions explicitly in response to North Korean missile tests, despite a significant increase in tests under Kim Jong-un.  So far this year, North Korea has conducted two ICBM tests and has conducted a […]

  3. […] few UN Security Council resolutions explicitly in response to North Korean missile tests, despite a significant increase in tests under Kim Jong-un.  So far this year, North Korea has conducted two ICBM tests and has conducted a […]

  4. […] relations have been marked by significant setbacks in recent years. The alarming rate of both nuclear and missile tests by North Korea has strained relations between the two Koreas and […]


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The Peninsula blog is a project of the Korea Economic Institute. It is designed to provide a wide ranging forum for discussion of the foreign policy, economic, and social issues that impact the Korean peninsula. The views expressed on The Peninsula are those of the authors alone, and should not be taken to represent the views of either the editors or the Korea Economic Institute. For questions, comments, or to submit a post to The Peninsula, please contact us at ts@keia.org.