President Donald Trump said Saturday evening that the U.S. will stand by its ally against North Korean provocations.
In a joint statement in Palm Beach, Florida, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared North Korea’s latest ballistic missile test “absolutely intolerable,” adding that Pyongyang must “fully comply with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.” Trump said that the “United States of America stands behind Japan, its great ally, one hundred percent.”
Trump made no further comments.
It is unclear at this time how the new U.S. administration plans to respond to North Korea’s test of a ballistic missile early Sunday morning (local time).
National Security Adviser Michael Flynn discussed the test with South Korea’s presidential security director Kim Kwan Jin. They agreed to “explore every possible way to suppress North Korean provocations.” The response is expected to be calibrated to show strength without escalating tensions.
The South Korean military suspects the missile was a Musudan intermediate-range ballistic missile. The ballistic missile was launched from Panghyon air base in Kusong, North Pyonggan province, where North Korea has previously tested Musudan missiles.
An operational Musudan missile would likely have a range of about 1,500 miles, putting U.S. forces stationed in Guam within striking distance.
Pyongyang is eager to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting targets in the continental U.S., but North Korea has so far put greater emphasis on developing an effective and reliable intermediate-range ballistic missile, like Musudan. The North conducted eight Musudan missile tests last year.
Some South Korean military officials have suggested that the missile may have been a medium-range Rodong missile.
U.S. Strategic Command believes that the missile was either a medium- or intermediate-range ballistic missile.
The South Korean military suggested that the missile launch was likely a “show of force” in response to Trump’s hard-line stance on North Korea’s weapons programs.
When he visited South Korea and Japan last week, Secretary of Defense James Mattis assured America’s allies that the U.S. would defend them against North Korea aggression. “Any attack on the United States, or our allies, will be defeated, and any use of nuclear weapons would be met with a response that would be effective and overwhelming,” he asserted. He also announced that the U.S. intends to push forward with plans to deploy an anti-missile system in South Korea this year.
Trump, in a joint statement with Abe, said Friday that he would push North Korea “to abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programs and not to take any further provocative actions.”
The ballistic missile launch may be a test of the new administration, a continuation of existing weapons development programs, or both. The new U.S. administration is dealing with a much more powerful North Korea than past presidents have faced.
In response to the latest ballistic missile test, the Pentagon said U.S. forces will “remain vigilant in the face of North Korean provocations and are fully committed to working closely with our Republic of Korea and Japanese allies to maintain security.”
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