Kim Jung-un offers “gift” to President Trump, America on Independence Day.
North Korea conducted the test of a missile it claims can reach “anywhere in the world.” According to the state-run news network Korea Central Television, the missile reached a maximum altitude of 2,802 kilometers. While this remains unconfirmed, this would mean that the North Korean missile reached an apex higher than that of the International Space Station.
However, the propaganda engine of North Korea frequently makes easily refuted and grossly inaccurate claims about every aspect of their military and government. While North Korea may claim to have an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile that can reach any target in the world, they also claim that Kim Jong-il invented the hamburger and never had to urinate or defecate. So, there is that.
However, it is important to note that within a few hours of the launch, the Pentagon was able to confirm that the missile that was launched was indeed an ICBM. It remains to be confirmed if the missile could reach the United States mainland, let alone carry a payload (nuclear or not). Most experts agree that the missile launched is not capable of either.
Regardless, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un said that the launch was a 4th of July “gift” to President Trump’s administration. This open and obvious provocation was met with a joint missile exercise by the United States and South Korea involving the American Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) and a Korean Hyunmoo Missile II. According to Pentagon spokesperson Dana White, the exercise was conducted to demonstrate American and South Korean “precision fire capabilities.”
The launch comes on the heels of President Trump’s discussion with Chinese and Japanese leaders about North Korea and just days before the 2017 G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany. While the media has been focused on the fact that President Trump and Vladimir Putin will both be in attendance, there is an undiscussed aspect of China and their relationship with North Korea. As Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stated, “Testing an ICBM represents a new escalation of the threat to the United States, our allies and partners, the region, and the world.”
President Trump has expressed frustration with China not doing more to exert influence on North Korea’s development of long-range nuclear weapons. On Twitter, President Trump called on China to “end this nonsense once and for all,” and Chinese authorities were indeed quick to condemn the launch. At a joint news conference in Moscow, Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping stated that they would work together to resolve the escalating crisis. Putin stated, “It is very important to push forward our joint initiative on settling the Korean problem with a view of immediately freezing the ballistic missile strikes,” while also questioning American deployments of weapons along the Korean peninsula. Both China and Russia do not agree with American military presence in the region but have not been able to ensure that North Korea can be contained and deterred from waging war throughout the region without the presence of the American military force. The Trump administration has previously stated that all options are on the table for dealing with the North Korean threat if Beijing is unable to exert pressure and effect changes with the Jong-un regime.
While most experts agree that North Korea’s claims of the range and capability of their missiles is greatly overstated, there is no denying that this launch is a game-changer. It is no longer a question of whether North Korea can create an ICBM, it is now about containing and restricting their abilities to advance beyond their current capabilities.