North Korea launched another ballistic missile early Tuesday, prompting another warning from President Donald Trump that “all options are on the table” as the U.S. and South Korea consider responses.
The missile reportedly flew about 2,700 km (about 1,680 miles) after reaching a height of 550 km (approximately 341 miles), passing over the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, the country’s second-largest whose capital is Sapporo. The missile’s flight path prompted an immediate, angered response from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who said he had discussed the launch with Trump and that the U.S. president assured him Washington was “100 percent” with Tokyo.
“It’s another provocation by North Korea, they just seem to continue to happen,” U.S. envoy Robert Wood told reporters in Geneva.
“This is a big concern of course to my government and to a number of other governments,” Wood said before a session of the U.N.-sponsored Conference on Disarmament.
“The world has received North Korea’s latest message loud and clear: this regime has signaled its contempt for its neighbors, for all members of the United Nations, and for minimum standards of acceptable international behavior,” Trump said, in a written statement released by the White House.
“Threatening and destabilizing actions only increase the North Korean regime’s isolation in the region and among all nations of the world. All options are on the table,” the statement continued.
In response, four South Korean F-15s participating in a bombing drill aimed at sending a powerful message to Pyongyang. The fighters dropped eight MK-84 bombs that accurately hit targets at a military field near South Korea’s eastern coast; each bomb reportedly had a 1-ton explosive yield.
Why it’s on our radar: While we’re used to seeing provocative missile launches by the North, putting one on a trajectory over sovereign Japanese territory was risky, if not inevitable. The U.S. Missile Defense Agency said it tracked the launch and missile trajectory, adding that the Japanese military did not attempt to shoot it down — meaning both the U.S. and Japanese militaries determined early enough in the launch that the missile was not going to strike Japan itself. No doubt the Russians and Chinese were tracking the launch as well.
At some point, Japan will have to send the North Koreans a message that Tokyo isn’t willing to sit idly by as Pyongyang casually lobs missiles in its direction. Surely Mr. Abe knows this.