On the North Korean missile test

North Korea apparently jolted Washington, Tokyo, and Seoul with the test-launch of an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) that flew about 300 miles before falling into the Sea of Japan (East Sea to Koreans).  The test was reported to Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo as they dined at Trump’s golf resort, and of course they condemned the test. But although the Pentagon assessed the missile as a step forward in North Korea’s ambition to produce an ocean-crossing ICBM, it really does not warrant all the hullabaloo that suggests a new threat to the US and its allies.  In fact, this missile’s predecessor, called the Musudan, failed four tests in a row.  The Kim Jong-un regime was probably trying to get its IRBM program back on track. Sure, the timing of the test suggests another effort to call attention to its growing military capabilities–and therefore the need for a new round of direct talks between Pyongyang and Washington.  But will the Trump administration respond diplomatically, or (more likely) interpret the test as a challenge to its resolve?

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One Comment

  1. Mel- I think you are correct that the test was less than might have been expected and that is, or might be interpreted as, a signal from NK. What if the US and ROK were now to scale back a bit the upcoming Key Resolve exercise? Initially small, but perceptible, exchanges of deescalation might lead to the minimal trust required for meaningful diplomacy. –Stu

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