North Korea Missile Test Fails as U.S. Signals Policy Shift
By Mark McGuire
North Korea launched a ballistic missile test in defiance of U.N. resolutions, the LA Times reported. The launch ended in failure and elicited strong condemnations across the region.
The missile test was conducted on the Day of the Sun, the most important national holiday in North Korea, which commemorates the birth of Kim Il-sung, the founder and former president of the hermit nation. The launch failed when the missile exploded after several seconds of flight. A similar failure occurred in 2016 when another missile was unsuccessfully launched on the Day of the Sun.
United States Vice President Mike Pence, who is in South Korea as part of his 10 day trip to Asia, as Reuters reports, stated that “all options are on the table” with respect to possible U.S. actions that could be taken in response to the continued provocations emanating from North Korea. Pence also cautioned North Korea not to question President Trump’s resolve, citing recent U.S. missile strikes in Syria and the use of the “mother of all bombs” in Afghanistan as concrete indicators that the United States is not afraid to act when its core interests are threatened. Following the United States’ lead, South Korea, Japan, and Australia, also condemned the missile launch as a flagrant violation of U.N. resolutions, urging North Korea to respect international law and abandon its ballistic missile and nuclear programs.
The United States, according to the BBC, went on to emphasize that the “era of strategic patience,” with North Korea, a policy employed by the U.S. for nearly a decade, is over. The policy was rooted in the belief that the United States could continuously increase the pressure on the North Korean government until the economic and political weight became so great that North Korea would agree to give up its nuclear weapons freely. However, as North Korea continues missile and nuclear tests and becomes closer to gaining the ability to launch nuclear-tipped missiles at the U.S. homeland, strategic patience becomes an increasingly precarious policy. The Trump administration stresses that the U.S. will not idly allow North Korea to advance its capabilities to make such a potentiality a viable outcome. North Korea responded to the United States policy change by vowing, in the words of Vice-Foreign Minister Han Song-ryol, to conduct “more missile tests on a weekly, monthly, and yearly basis.”
In line with the abandoning of strategic patience, the United States, according to The Guardian, is considering a number of additional options including shooting down North Korean ballistic missiles that are to be used in future tests. Any such decision, according to U.S. officials, would probably be made after an expected sixth nuclear test, marking a dramatic escalation in deterrent action by the United States.
Seeking to tame rising tensions, China, as the National Post reports, urges all involved parties not to make unilateral decisions that would increase the specter of war. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi highlights his country’s commitment to bringing about a peaceful resolution to the dispute on the Korean Peninsula, underscoring his belief that the United States prefers a diplomatic solution rather than a military one. The statements come amid mounting global pressures that seek to get China, North Korea’s only major economic partner, to impose harsher penalties on the nation for its disruptive activities. Various U.N. resolutions and Chinese policies have sought to achieve this aim, however, The New York Times reports trade between the two countries is up over 37 percent year over year for the first quarter of 2017.