North Korea Test-Fires Missile in Implicit Challenge to Trump
Missile likely to have a range of up to 3,000-4,000 km; US may impose fresh sanctions
Seoul | Washington: North Korea fired a ballistic missile into the sea early on Sunday, the first such test since US President Donald Trump was elected, and his administration indicated that Washington would have a calibrated response to avoid escalating tensions. The test was li kely to have been of an intermediate-range Musudan-class missile that landed in the Sea of Japan, according to South Korea’s military, not an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM), which the North has said it could test at any time.
The launch marks the first test of Trump’s vow to get tough on an isolated North Korean regime that last year tested nuclear devices and ballistic missiles at an unprecedented rate in violation of United Nations resolutions.
A US official said the Trump administration had been expecting a North Korean “provocation” soon after taking office and will consider a full range of options in response, but they would be calibrated to show US resolve while avoiding escalation. Later, White House adviser Stephen Miller said on the television show “Fox News Sunday” that “we are going to reinforce and strengthen our vital alliances in the Pacific region as part of our strategy to deter and prevent the increasing hostility that we’ve seen in recent years from the North Korean regime”.
The new administration is also likely to step up pressure on China to rein in North Korea, reflecting Trump’s previously stated view thatBeijinghasnotdoneenoughon this front, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“This was no surprise,” the official said. “The North Korean leader likes to draw attention at times like this.”
The latest test comes a day after Trump held a summit meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and also follows Trump’s phone call last week with Chinese President Xi Jinping. NATO condemned the missile test in a statement by Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who said North Korea “must refrain from further provocations, halt all launches using ballistic missile technology and abandon once and for all its ballistic missile programs ... “
Trump and his aides are likely to weigh a series of possible responses, including new US sanctions to tighten financial controls, an increase in naval and air assets in and around the Korean peninsula and accelerated installation of new missile defense systems in South Korea, the administration official said.
But the official said that given that the missile was believed not to have been an ICBM and that Pyongyang had not carried out a new nuclear explosion, any response will seek to avoid ratcheting up tensions.
A TV grab showing North Korea leader Kim Jong-un in a report of the launch