After roughly two months of no provocative actions by North Korea, Pyongyang broke its silence Tuesday with the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile.
Reuters reported Monday that Japanese authorities had detected an increase in radio signals that seemed to suggest that North Korea was preparing to launch a missile, though they were unable to confirm that suspicion via satellite imagery or other means of intelligence.
Unfortunately, it turned out that Japanese suspicions were correct, as Channel News Asia confirmed that a ballistic missile had been launched from North Korean territory on Wednesday morning, Korean time, Tuesday afternoon in Washington.
South Korean and U.S. military authorities immediately began to analyze the flight path of the missile, and determined that it had been launched from the South Pyongan Province. The missile then flew east for about 620 miles before crashing harmlessly into the Sea of Japan, though it did breach Japan’s important Economic Exclusion Zone.
According to White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, President Donald Trump was meeting with members of Congress on Capitol Hill at the time of the launch, but he was nevertheless fully briefed “while the missile was still in the air.”
“The missile was launched from Sain Ni, North Korea, and traveled about 1,000 kilometers before splashing down in the Sea of Japan, within Japan’s Economic Exclusion Zone,” stated Pentagon spokesman Col. Rob Manning, according to CNN. “We are working with our interagency partners on a more detailed assessment of the launch.”
“The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) determined the missile launch from North Korea did not pose a threat to North America, our territories or our allies,” the spokesman added.
While the missile did not travel far, it went “higher, frankly, than any previous shot they have taken,” Defense Secretary James Mattis said, according to CNN. Mattis said the launch showed North Korea could hit “everywhere in the world basically,” CNN reported.
In immediate response, the South Korean military conducted a “precision missile strike drill” to display their readiness and capabilities.
“South Korea apparently used this launch to prove it has the ability to hit the North’s mobile missile launchers or leadership targets,” Adam Mount, a North Korea expert and senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, told CNN. “It is a measured and pointed response but also a reminder that the peninsula remains on hair-trigger alert. In this situation, provocations or even mistakes could quickly escalate out of control.”
As our readers are no doubt aware, North Korea has not launched a ballistic missile since mid-September, a rather odd lapse considering their nearly routine test launches throughout the earlier part of the year — a total of 22 missiles in 15 separate tests.
This re-engagement of the communist regime’s missile testing is quite likely a response to new economic sanctions recently placed on North Korea and the listing of the regime as a state sponsor of terror by the Trump administration, according to Central News Asia.
Those moves were reported to be part of Trump’s “maximum pressure campaign” against dictator Kim Jong Un, but his regime countered by defiantly claiming the actions to be a “serious provocation” that would not dissuade Pyongyang from pursuing the goal of becoming armed with nuclear-capable ballistic missiles.
Meanwhile, at Trump’s request, China has been attempting to act as a peacekeeper in the region, even recently sending a high-level envoy to North Korea for talks with Kim.
The Chinese have also suggested a “dual track approach” to calm the heightened tensions that would include concessions from both North Korea as well as the U.S. and South Korea.
For the North Korean regime, China would like a complete halt to any further progress in the country’s illicit weapons programs, while China would also like to see the U.S. and South Korea implement a “freeze” on joint military drills.
Freezing the joint military drills is highly unlikely, though they could potentially be scaled down some, and it is equally unlikely that North Korea will truly halt further development of its ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons programs … which pretty much leaves us right back where we started when Trump first took office.
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