Leading up to the inauguration of President Trump, there was substantial media speculation as to whether the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un, was planning a provocation to test the new administration in the White House. Then-president-elect Trump vowed to stop North Korea from developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching the United States with a tweet saying “It won’t happen!”
Just weeks later, North Korea test-fired a ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan on Sunday. The next day, North Korean officials claimed that the test-fire of their new nuclear-capable missile was a success.
It is now believed that North Korea’s act was likely planned to correspond with the Japanese Prime Minister Abe’s meeting with President Trump. Both Prime Minister Abe and the United Nations Security Council have condemned North Korea’s missile launch.
Specifically, Prime Minister Abe stated that, “North Korea’s most recent missile launch is absolutely intolerable,” while the United Nations Security Council called the missile launch a “grave violation” of the U.N. Security Council resolutions. However, North Korea’s foreign minister rejected the U.N.’s denunciation of the missile launch and countered by claiming that it was a defensive precaution.
The initial concern for the United States government was that North Korea was testing an intercontinental ballistic missile. These concerns were quickly extinguished as the test launch reached a mere 310 miles, well below the projected range of 700 to 800 miles. On Wednesday, North Korea’s state run television news agency, KCNA, declared that the state had launched a new missile called Pukguksong-2.
While the launch did not have an extensive missile range, the new concern now lies in the capabilities of foreign powers to detect a legitimate launch in a timely manner. Though the range of the missile was not as extensive as North Korean officials had hoped, the test launch still proved promising.
According to the KCNA, Kim Jong-un has expressed great satisfaction with North Korea’s development of this missile technology. According to the news outlet, Kim views the capabilities of this missile as a major asset to his nation by adding to North Korea’s strength in military arms.
Arms experts have said that solid-fuel technology, like the Pukguksong-2, allows the missile to hide from satellite detection and increases the efficiency of the launch time. Thus, solid-fuel missiles make it much harder for foreign powers to properly detect a launch due to the fact that the rocket requires less fueling time and can launch in minutes.
As a result of the secretive nature of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, foreign powers have been hesitant to counter the recent missile launch. North Korea has had a very erratic record in test-launching and is notorious for claiming that it possesses a miniaturized nuclear warhead among other weapons. North Korea’s continued testing of these nuclear warheads poses a complete violation of the U.N. Security Council Resolutions set forth by the United Nations. These sanctions explicitly forbid North Korea from carrying out ballistic missile launches as a way to prevent the country from successfully developing nuclear weapons, which would be a huge threat on the world stage.
Despite previous warnings, the nation under Kim Jong-un has continued to blatantly disregard these restrictions. As such, the United Nations has decided to take meet to decide what actions must be taken in order to make sure North Korea ceases any further development of nuclear missiles and complies with the sanctions that have been set forth.
In response to North Korea’s recent test-fire, President Trump has had minimal remarks other than pledging his support for Japan, saying “I just want everybody to understand and fully know that the United States of America stands behind Japan, its great ally, 100 percent.” The very short statement has given broad insight into some of the meaning behind the North Korean missile test launches.
For Japan, these missile tests are especially disconcerting. Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, even issued a statement that has made it clear that Japan sees North Korea’s actions as solely directed at the island nation. Japan has responded quicly to the missile testing by launching a series of protests against North Korea through its embassy in Beijing. Since Sunday, the White House has remained quiet about their emerging stance. President Trump’s level-headed response has evoked many assumptions that the administration does not yet have a strategy.
Indeed, North Korea’s missile testing has raised alarm bells for not only Japan, but also the United States. Though the U.S. has the advantage of greater separation from North Korea, there are fears that developments in missile technology may nullify the old safeguard of distance. The intermediate ballistics which North Korea has been testing are certainly dangerous. Their range surpasses those of prior missiles that the nation has tested, so it is clear that North Korea is making advancements. Some fear that the intermediate missiles are a stepping stone to longer-range technology that could potentially target the United States in the future. While such an extreme threat is likely far off, U.S. commanders have stressed that it is better to be prepared for the possibility.