Despite increasing pressure on North Korea to stand down from its nuclear ambitions and ballistic missile program, the rogue nation fired another missile in the early hours of Wednesday morning, according to a statement from the Joint Chiefs of Staff of South Korea. The Yonhap News Agency quoted them as saying, “North Korea launched an unidentified ballistic missile eastward from the vicinity of Pyongsong, South Pyongan Province, at dawn today.”
A South Korean military official later told NBC that a “precision missile-firing drill” had been carried out by South Korean forces, in response.
The launch – likely the latest in a series of recent tests – comes just days after China dispatched an envoy to its southern neighbor. The timing, therefore, casts further uncertainty on how much pressure China is applying to the North Korean government over its increasing defiance of the international community.
In the ongoing tit-for-tat between President Donald Trump and the North Korean dictator, observers speculate that the launch was, in part, retaliation for Trump’s decision to place North Korea back on the list of ‘state sponsors of terrorism.’
Latest Missile Test Result Ominous
The government of Japan confirmed the launch and, according to at least one report, later announced that the missile had fallen into the Sea of Japan. U.S. officials say it flew for about 50 minutes and was likely an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM). According to those officials, the missile trajectory could indicate a new phase in Pyongyang’s missile development: It reached an altitude of approximately 2800 miles above the earth and came down relatively close to its launch location – well short of its actual range. This could suggest the North Koreans are closer than expected to their apparent goal of being able to launch an ICBM to a high enough altitude to reach the U.S. In theory, this missile could have reached any part of the U.S. mainland.
President Trump Gives Little Away
Speaking less than three hours after the missile test, the president, during remarks on tax reform, told reporters, “It is a situation that we will handle.” He also used the opportunity to call for a speedy resolution to government funding disputes, pointing to the urgency for military spending. General Mattis was asked by the president to make some brief remarks on the North Korean situation. Mattis described the missile test as a “research and development effort on [the North Koreans’] part.” He added that it “endangers world peace, regional peace and, of course, the United States.”
Some experts are now saying that North Korea may be able to successfully complete its ballistic missile program within a year. Before that period of time has come to an end, President Trump may face the most critical decision any president has faced since 1962 when John F. Kennedy faced off with Russian Premier Nikita Khrushchev over the so-called ‘Cuban Missile Crisis.’
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