North Korea warned that its launch of an intermediate-range ballistic missile over Japan today was “a meaningful prelude to containing Guam.”
Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency released photos of Kim Jong-un watching this morning’s launch of the Hwasong-12. The unprecedented flyover of Hokkaido lasted for two minutes of the missile’s 14-minute flight, the Japanese government said, and it broke apart before plunging into the Pacific Ocean.
South Korea said the missile was launched from near North Korea’s capital and flew for about 2,700 km. The alert system went off in Japan, warning residents in the missile’s path, but there were no reports of damage or injuries at sea or on land.
President Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe spoke by phone for about 40 minutes today. “We completely agreed that we should further strengthen pressure (against the North) by convening an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council immediately,” Abe told reporters.
In a statement issued by the White House, Trump said that “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.”
“Threatening and destabilizing actions only increase the North Korean regime’s isolation in the region and among all nations of the world,” he added. “All options are on the table.” At a campaign rally last week in Phoenix, Trump said of Kim, “I respect the fact that I believe he is starting to respect us. I respect that fact very much.”
KCNA said Kim “arrived at the launching ground early at dawn and watched the artillerymen promptly moving and deploying the Hwasong-12 rocket launcher, praising them for their smart and accurate movement” and declared the missile “accurately hit the preset target waters in northern Pacific.”
“Praising the Hwasong artillerymen of the Strategic Force for being well versed in the newly equipped ultra-modern rocket system and properly operating it, he said the drill would offer them an opportunity for gaining a good experience in their rocket operation for an actual war,” KCNA continued, summing up Kim’s reaction. “Noting that the current ballistic rocket launching drill like a real war is the first step of the military operation of the KPA in the Pacific and a meaningful prelude to containing Guam, advanced base of invasion, he said that it is necessary to positively push forward the work for putting the strategic force on a modern basis by conducting more ballistic rocket launching drills with the Pacific as a target in the future.”
Kim also called the launch “a curtain-raiser” of North Korea’s “resolute countermeasures” against a previously scheduled military exercise with South Korea and the U.S. that runs through Thursday. The annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise is a “computer simulated defensive exercise designed to enhance readiness, protect the region and maintain stability on the Korean peninsula,” the Pentagon said.
Kim, KCNA added, said North Korea would “be fully ready to go into action for decisive battle so as to launch powerful ballistic rockets anytime and thus check military racket of the U.S. imperialists and their followers and firmly guarantee the security of the country and the happiness of the people.”
Asked at a meeting with Germany’s foreign minister today about the latest provocation, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson replied, “We’ll have more to say about it later.”
Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) today urged colleagues to consider their Banking Restrictions Involving North Korea (BRINK) Act, intended to work like Iran sanctions in severing Pyongyang’s ties with the global financial system.
“UN sanctions resolutions are only words if they are not enforced, and for too long the international community has been unwilling to enforce sanctions against Pyongyang,” said Van Hollen, who recently visited Japan, China and South Korea with a congressional delegation.
Toomey said their bill “aims to raise the cost of pursuing nuclear capabilities to the point where the regime cannot sustain its current belligerent path.”