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North Korea Launches Another Missile Test

Kim Jong Un North Korean Flag

North Korea launched another missile test that appears to have been somewhat more successful than what we’ve seen in the recent past:

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea launched an intermediate-range ballistic missile on Sunday, the first test since a new president took office in South Korea this past week and called for dialogue with the North.

The missile took off from the northwestern city of Kusong and flew more than 430 miles before landing in the sea between North Korea and Japan, the South Korean military said in a statement. Data on the launch was still being analyzed by the South to determine the type of missile.

Saying that North Korea had been “a flagrant menace for far too long,” the White House said in a statement late Saturday in Washington that the test served “as a call for all nations to implement far stronger sanctions” against Pyongyang.

“The United States maintains our ironclad commitment to stand with our allies in the face of the serious threat posed by North Korea,” the statement said.

It also noted that the missile had fallen closer to Russia than Japan, adding that “the president cannot imagine that Russia is pleased.”

Russia, a Cold War-era ally of North Korea, is a member of the so-called six-nation talks aimed at persuading North Korea to give up its nuclear arsenal in return for diplomatic and economic benefits. The forum, first begun in 2003, has been stalled since 2008.

The missile on Sunday reached an altitude of more than 1,245 miles during its 30-minute flight time, the Japanese government said. That data, combined with the announcement by South Korea that the projectile covered a distance of 430 miles, showed that it was an intermediate-range ballistic missile that could target key United States military bases in the Pacific, including those in Guam, missile experts said.

The North’s launch took place as its biggest supporter, China, was hosting delegations from around the world at its “One Belt One Road” forum in Beijing. A North Korean delegation, led by its external trade minister, was also attending.

President Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir V. Putin, who was at the forum, had a “fairly detailed talk” about the situation of the Korean Peninsula, including the North’s missile test, said Mr. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, according to the Russian news agency Interfax.

“Mutual concern was expressed about how this situation is developing, and about growing tensions,” Mr. Peskov said.

Hours after President Trump’s comment, Russia’s Defense Ministry said the North Korean missile posed “no danger” to Russia because it flew at a “significant distance” from the coast, Interfax said, citing a ministry statement.

Russia’s ballistic missile early-warning system tracked the North Korean missile for 23 minutes before it fell into the sea, about 310 miles off the Russian coast, while its air-defense systems were “on combat duty as usual,” the statement said.

This was the North’s first missile test since a launch on April 29 that was considered a failure, with the unidentified projectile exploding a few minutes after liftoff.

Under a series of United Nations Security Council resolutions, the country is banned from developing or testing ballistic missiles.

In South Korea, President Moon Jae-in ordered an urgent meeting of top security officials during which he condemned the missile launch as “a clear violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions” and ordered his military to be prepared for provocations by the North.

Mr. Moon, who won the presidential election on Tuesday, said the move was “deeply regrettable” only days after he took office calling for dialogue with the North.

“We keep our door open for dialogue with North Korea, but we must act decisively against North Korean provocations so that it will not miscalculate,” Mr. Moon was quoted as saying by his office. “We must show that dialogue is possible when the North changes its attitude.”

Mr. Moon also urged his military to speed up its development of an indigenous land-based ballistic missile defense system known as the Korea Air and Missile Defense.

After a series of North Korean missile tests, Mr. Moon’s ousted predecessor, Park Geun-hye, agreed to the deployment of an American missile defense system, Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, known as Thaad. Mr. Moon has questioned the technical and political usefulness of Thaad, whose deployment has angered China.

Mr. Moon’s victory on Tuesday brought South Korean liberals back to power. They favor dialogue with North Korea, saying that sanctions alone have not worked to stop its nuclear and missile threats.

North Korea has a history of raising tensions to strengthen its leverage when its foes have proposed negotiations or to test new leaders in Seoul or Washington.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan strongly protested the North’s action in comments to reporters.

Speaking on Sunday morning, Mr. Abe described the repeated missile launches as a “grave threat against Japan” and vowed to cooperate with the United States and South Korea.

This morning, there’s been some suggestion that the test was directed as much at sending a message to Russia and China as it was at sending a message to the United States, South Korea, and Japan. By this, analysts apparently mean that Pyongyang is apparently sending another message to the two nations that it depends on the most for assistance that it won’t necessarily respond to pressure to pull back on things such as its nuclear weapons research program, or its program to develop and enhance ballistic missile technology. This would be consistent with other recent behavior in which the Kim regime has attempted to assert its independence from its two benefactors, especially in the face of international suggestions that both China and Russia have become increasingly frustrated with North Korean recklessness and what it might portend in terms of increased pressure on the regime to change course on some of its core military programs. It’s hard to say how any of this might be interpreted in either Beijing or Moscow, but it’s unlikely to improve the ties between the three nations or to make either Russia or China any more tolerant of behavior that could result in exactly the type of chaos on the peninsula that they clearly have an interest in avoiding.

In addition to sending a message to those nations, of course, the test was likely aimed at the United States, Japan, and South Korea, particularly the former and its newly-elected President. Ironically, though, it strikes me that acting to ramp up tensions so soon after the South Korean election may end up backfiring on the North. The Republic of Korea’s newly elected President is a left-of-center candidate whose party has generally favored a somewhat more conciliatory position toward the North aimed at diplomacy rather than confrontation. President Moon also took the campaign position of being somewhat skeptical, although not entirely dismissive, of the idea of activating the THAAD missile defense system being provided by the United States. Launching a provocative test so close to Moon becoming President may have the impact of pushing him closer to accepting installation of the defense system and deterring him from immediately proceeding with a more conciliatory policy toward the North for the time being.

 

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. CSK says:

    Well, the little swine appears to be getting better at hurling toys out of his playpen.

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  2. michael reynolds says:

    We have this odd combination of hostage situation and proxy war. It is clearly irrational for Americans to be more worried about the DPRK than South Korea is. Kim can hit all of South Korea right now, today, and yet Moon’s hair is notably less on-fire than ours.

    We don’t want Kim able to hit the US, but if he’s already able to hit Japan and South Korea, and if we are ready to retaliate on their behalf, I’m not sure quite what we are worked up about. Would a Nork ICBM really change anything fundamental? Aside from San Francisco being as at-risk as Seoul or Tokyo? Isn’t this already a version of deterrence?

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  3. john430 says:

    @michael reynolds: Isn’t this already a version of deterrence?

    It depends on whether one’s adversaries are aware, or care, about Mutually Assured Destruction.

    Ahmadinejad (sp?) with his martyr complex, said that God would sort out the “faithful” from the infidels so why worry? Kim Jong Idiot probably thinks that if he lobs a nuke at San Francisco or Seattle then we’ll fold up and collapse. Personally, I don’t think he’s rational, so “deterrence ” may not be in his vocabulary.

    Fidel Castro was incensed that the Russians wouldn’t give him control of the missiles in Cuba back in the day. The Russians weren’t about to hand them over to a nutjob who openly told them he’d use them against us at the first chance.

    There’s “crazy like a fox” and there’s just plain crazy.

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  4. Slugger says:

    @michael reynolds: I have said previously that the reason that South Korea isn’t too worried is because they are only looking at North Korea. American strategic planners have to consider a world where any country with an industrial base as big as the Norks, which means at least 75 nations, will have nukes and ICBMs. Our current world balance of power will be upended when everybody has nukes including Cuba, Syria, Venezuela, and even non-state organizations like Hezbollah or Mexican narcogangs.

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  5. michael reynolds says:

    @john430:
    Kim hasn’t made a move on SK or on Japan, so I think he understands deterrence just fine, in all likelihood.

    The problem is he understands that it works both ways. Non-nuclear Saddam? Gone. Non-nuclear Gaddafi? Gone. Nuclear Pakistan? Safe.

    The lesson Kim must inevitably draw from that is that nuclear capability keeps him safe from American attack. In other words, we incentivized his nuclear program, and by virtue of his own survival he can see the crystal-clear benefits of owning nukes.

    So now, with Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama and Trump having drawn the ever-shifting line in the sand, we are trapped without a single good option for enforcing our will, but to hope for incredible luck. Our best military option is decapitation, which is against our own law, and against international law, and would require intel we almost certainly don’t have.

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  6. michael reynolds says:

    @Slugger:

    We’ve drawn so many red lines for North Korea that we’re running out of red Sharpies. The message that a nuke program will get you sanctioned has been sent. But so has the message that we will, in the end, do nothing more than apply sanctions. Sanctions are good at deterring countries that don’t feel they need a nuke to survive, and useless for those that feel actively threatened.

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  7. teve tory says:

    Every time the US wants to blow someone up, we hear that this time is Soooo different because This Guy Is Crazy.

    Dehumanizing the other side is a time-tested propaganda technique.

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  8. JohnMcC says:

    What NKorea’s atomic warheads are (or possibly will be) is dynastic insurance. I’ve been trying to chase down some echo in my head from the book Dune. Didn’t Paul Atreides’ have “family nukes” that they relied on as some final insurance of safety? I bet someone here will know.

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  9. john430 says:

    @teve tory: Dehumanizing the other side…

    Doesn’t mean it isn’t true. See: Genghis Khan, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, the Jong-Un cartel, etc.

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  10. CSK says:

    Seriously OT, but a number of sources are reporting that the next ambassador to the Vatican will be…Callista Gingrich.

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  11. Mr. Bluster says:

    As a graduate of Luther College, Decorah, Iowa, I hope she presents the Bishop of Rome with a copy of Martin Luther’s Disputatio pro declaratione virtutis indulgentiarum (95 Theses). She might consider a hammer and some nails too. Or would that be too in your face?

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  12. MarkedMan says:

    All snark aside, NK represents the real danger of a Trump presidency and the desirability of having Mike Pence in his place, despite the fact that Pence would be more effective in promoting policies I truly believe would harm the American People. Trump could start a war with NK tomorrow, because his tiny little mind thinks its a good idea. And that would endanger hundreds of millions or billions of Asians, with no risk to the Continental US. We would end up being hated to a degree we have never felt except perhaps from Iran in 1978. Can you imagine if 4 billion Asians as a whole decided we were more of a threat than China? This is a very real possibility. And if war actually breaks out, and we prove that we are more of threat than China, well, the consequences are bleak…

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  13. Senyordave says:

    @CSK: Seriously OT, but a number of sources are reporting that the next ambassador to the Vatican will be…Callista Gingrich.

    Notice how many relatives of influential Republicans are getting nice cushy government jobs? McConnell, McCain, Newt, Huckabee. Not too mention Javanka, who isn’t officially on the government payroll but is undoubtedly profiting greatly. Draining the swamp. The GOP hates big government until they can make a buck off it. And the sad part is they can be bought off so cheaply.

    How any person can support the Republicans is beyond me. They don’t even fake caring about this country anymore.

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  14. MarkedMan says:

    @john430:

    Fidel Castro was incensed that the Russians wouldn’t give him control of the missiles in Cuba back in the day.

    In recent years we’ve learned from the Soviet side that during the crisis he went beyond this and repeatedly demanded that Miami, Atlanta and any other reachable American city be nuked. Think about what would have happened if his finger was on the button rather than Kruschev. And Baby Kim is nowhere near as rational as Fidel.

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  15. Tyrell says:

    @Mr. Bluster: Sometime last year the Catholic Church and the Lutheran church came to some kind of agreement concerning basic doctrines and so forth. The Catholics tried to claim Luther was on their side ! They also said that their teaching of salvation had changed: it hasn’t. There is no movement on the Catholic side toward any of Luther’s teachings. A phony agreement that the gullible Lutheran leaders bought. If only Luther could come back: he would straighten out the big mess today’s church is in.
    Listen to Dr. Al Mohler’s “daily briefing” of 7-1-2016. Seems that the Pope made some wild statements then – such as most Catholic marriages are invalid !

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  16. CSK says:

    More OT: The reason Jason Chaffetz is quitting is to join Fox news.

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  17. gVOR08 says:

    @CSK:
    This story sounds more like FOX came after quitting, not as a reason. He quit because he recognized being a Republican investigator in the age of Trump was fraught with peril to the only cause about which he cares, his career. The little weasel sees himself as prez material.

    I’m not sure this was meant as a compliment:

    “He’s probably one of the most media-capable members in the House,” another senior House Republican aide said, “just based on total time spent on a television camera.”

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  18. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @JohnMcC:

    Didn’t Paul Atreides’ have “family nukes” that they relied on as some final insurance of safety?

    Yes.

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  19. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @JohnMcC: Oh and he used them, but not on the Harkonnens or the Emperor, but on a natural feature to open a line of attack they could not defend against. Therefor, the families of the Empire were able to dismiss this use of nuclear weapons and accept the new peace that came with his marriage to the Emperor’s daughter.

    Yes, I was a little geeky in HS. Why do you ask?

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  20. CSK says:

    @gVOR08:

    Yeah, you’re probably right. Now that I think of it, didn’t he give as his initial reason for bailing a foot operation?

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