North Korea test-fired a ballistic missile on Sunday, the first challenge to the President Donald J. Trump’s new policy toward the hermit country since he took office in January. The missile aimed into the sea of Japan was reportedly launched as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was visiting the US President.
In an impromptu press conference at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, Abe called Pyongyang’s latest missile launch “absolutely intolerable.” He said the country “must fully comply with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.” The United Nations Security Council resolutions notably prohibit North Korea from conducting missile launches in an effort to curb the country’s development of nuclear weapons.
Per CNN, Trump only spoke one sentence supporting Japan and did not reveal any retaliatory plans. “I just want everybody to understand and fully know that the United States of America stands behind Japan, its great ally, 100%,” Trump said.
The leaders, who were then meeting to discuss U.S.-Japan ties, no longer entertained questions from reporters after the statements. Trump mentioned Friday that his administration would work closely with the Asian country for defense against the North Korean missile and nuclear threat.”
North Korea Launches Missile as ‘Provocation’
Pyongyang fired the ballistic missile off its east coast 7:55 a.m. Seoul time over the weekend. Japanese and South Korean officials consider it both as a provocation and a test of Trump’s policy and Japanese responses. “Our assessment is that it is part of a show of force in response to the new U.S. administration’s hardline position against the North,” South’s Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
According to Reuters, the missile flew about 500 kilometers (310 miles) and landed in waters between Japan and the Korean Peninsula. It reached an altitude of about 550 km. Seoul has initially assessed the missile as a medium-range Rodong. However, it later claimed the North launched a Musudan, that could fly up to 3,000-4,000 km.
The United States’ Response
One US official says Trump’s administration had already been expecting a “provocation” from the North soon after taking office. While the president stayed mum during the brief presscon, the source claims the government is considering a full range of options in response. Although they would come up with a calibrated one to avoid escalating tensions.
White House adviser Stephen Miller notably reiterated in the administration’s plan of strengthening ties in the Pacific region. He says in a TV appearance it is a part of their strategy “to deter and prevent the increasing hostility that we’ve seen in recent years from the North Korean regime.”
The anonymous official foresees Trump putting more pressure on China as well to rein over the Kim Jong Un-led country. The President has previously stated Beijing has done little to address concerns about North Korea. Still, he says the move was “no surprise”. The North Korean leader is reportedly fond of drawing attention at times like this.
The launch serves as the first test of Trump’s pledge to get tough on North Korea which tested nuclear devices and ballistic missiles last year at an “unprecedented rate” in violation of the UN resolutions. Meanwhile, China has not yet commented on the launch.