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This has been a provocative year for North Korea. In addition to conducting its fourth nuclear weapons test in January, the Pyongyang government held a series of missile tests, all in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions. As a result, the reclusive state is being subject to tighter and more oppressive sanctions. Hardship seems to have had no impact on North Korean behavior, however. Most experts expect more provocations in the days and weeks to come, even including a fifth nuclear test. The sad truth is that Pyongyang has its own imperatives, and thumbing its nose at international opinion does not hurt the regime so much as legitimizes it.

This year, North Korea tested a nuclear weapon in January, launched a long-range ballistic missile in February, fired three intermediate-range missiles in recent weeks and tested submarine-launched missiles. In the last two weeks, North Korea is reported to have tested two Musudan intermediate-range ballistic missiles, which have a range of about 3,500 km — meaning that they can strike both Japan and Guam — and a submarine-launched missile. The two tests were both thought to have failed, which makes for three consecutive Musudan failures in two weeks. Those launches followed a test of a submarine-launched ballistic missile days earlier — the verdict is still out on whether that test succeeded.

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