The world was holding its breath in anticipation this weekend to see what Kim Jong-un would do on April 15th – a national holiday he was expected to celebrate with another missile test.
Pyongyang celebrated the “Day of the Sun” by flaunting its missile arsenal and showing off its armed forces in a massive, two-hour-long military parade.
“One of the big surprises of the parade was the unveiling of potential new intercontinental ballistic missiles,” reports the New York Times, but the giant launch tubes displayed in the parade “could also be empty decoys or mock-ups of systems still under development.”
North Korea did launch a medium-range ballistic missile on Sunday, but the weapon blew up almost immediately.
“If it had been a nuclear test, then other actions would have been taken from the US,” said one official, adding that the US had good intel ahead of the test.
This is the second missile failure this month, which I’m sure is a severe embarrassment to Kim Jong-un after his tough words to the US following the Navy’s decision to send an armada towards the peninsula.
“It’s not like not doing a nuclear test was good news,” points out Jeffrey Lewis, head of the East Asia program at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in California. “This is all part of the same program,” he said in reference to the weapons on display during the parade.
In reponse to the failed missile launch, National Security adviser and Lt. Gen. HR McMaster has announced that “all of our options are on the table.” The National Security Council is working with the State Department, the Pentagon, and intelligence agencies to develop options for Trump to use “if this pattern of destabilizing behavior continues.”
“The President has made clear that he will not accept the United States and its allies and partners in the region being under threat from this hostile regime with nuclear weapons. And so we’re working together with our allies and partners, and with the Chinese leadership, to develop a range of options,” he said.
Both McMaster and Trump have reiterated that they wish to solve the problem without taking military action.
“If they took the time and energy to launch a missile and fail, we don’t need to expend any resources against that,” said McMasters when asked about the US response to Sunday’s test.
Last week, the North Korean military threatened to launch pre-emptive strikes against American military bases in Japan, South Korea, and beyond. China urged its ally to exercise restraint.
“If they start a nuclear war, we will respond with nuclear strikes,” said Choe Ryong-hae, one of Kim’s top aides.
Officials announced Friday that they had settled on a “maximum pressure and engagement” policy, with emphasis on increasing pressure on North Korea with China’s help.
Vice President Mike Pence will explain this policy with leaders of state during his 10-day Asian tour, which began Sunday when he landed in Seoul, South Korea shortly after the failed missile launch.
“This morning’s provocation from the North is just the latest reminder of the risks each one of you face every day in the defense of the freedom of the people of South Korea and the defense of America in this party of the world,” said Pence after celebrating Easter with military personnel.
“Your willingness to step forward, to serve, to stand firm without fear, inspires the nation and inspires the world.”
Editor’s note: North Korea still threatening, but the world seems to be taking it less and less seriously. It has not surfaced yet, but I’m willing to bet China is in serious and continuous talks with North Korean leadership.