In a direct challenge to the US , North Korea fired another ballistic missile over Japan just days after a new sanctions resolution the united nations Security Council adopted to force the country to halt its nuclear tests.
The missile was not aimed at the US base of Guam in the Pacific island, which President Trump had warned could prompt a military response after North Korea threatened to fire missiles into the sea near the island last month.
Instead, it blasted off from near the Sunan airport north of Pyongyang, and flew about 2,300 miles directly east, flying over northern Japan and falling into the Pacific, according to the South Korean military. That is a slightly greater distance than between the North Korean capital and the US air base, and American officials,scrambling to assess the symbolism, said it was clearly intended to make the point that the North could strike the base with ease.
One senior US military official called it a test shot that was also meant as a warning that the primary American bomber base, which would be central to any military action on the Korean Peninsula, was within easy reach of the North Korea’s missiles.
At the White House senior officials gathered in the Situation Room to weigh a response, but the Trump administration chose not to take out the missile on the launching pad, even though they saw it being fuelled a day ago. The Vice President, Mike Pence, officials said, was even shown images of the missile during a visit.
Neither the US nor Japan tried to shoot down the missile, perhaps because it was clear moments after the launching that it was not aimed at land. ‘The North American Aerospace Defense Command determined this missile did not pose a threat to US, ’ a United States Pacific Command spokesman . It also concluded that the missile ‘did not pose a threat to Guam.’
Nonetheless, in Japan, an alert was issued on television and via cellphones, warning people to take shelter inside a building or underground. Japan said the missile landed in waters about 1,370 miles east of the northern island of Hokkaido.
The launching appeared to answer a lingering question: whether Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s leader, would view the latest round of sanctions, passed unanimously by the Security Council, as a threat to his government or a reason to speed forward with his program. The test also appeared to move the North one step closer to showing that it could place a nuclear warhead atop a missile that could travel thousands of miles, a prospect that has rattled the region and posed a daunting foreign policy challenge to the Trump administration.
Intelligence officials said they believe that if Mr. Kim was willing to enter talks over a freeze of his nuclear and missile testing he will only do so after he has established that he can launch a nuclear weapon capable of hitting American territory. The Friday flight, with a long arc that peaked at an altitude a little less than 500 miles, took him close to demonstrating that he can accomplish just that.
Trump is scheduled to meet the South Korean President,.Moon Jae-in, and Japan’s prime minister,. Shinzo Abe, in New York next week.. Abe, after returning to Tokyo from a visit to India, said, ‘We need to let North Korea realize that if they keep taking this path, they will have no bright future.’