On August 9th, President Trump, during a visit to his Trump National Golf Club at Bedminster, NJ, made the statement that:
“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen… he has been very threatening beyond a normal state. They will be met with fire, fury and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before.”
Things were quiet for about a week and half, from the North Korean side of things and there began to be a fair amount of Trump’s media surrogates from alt-Right websites, to Fox News and right wing radio talkers – proclaiming that Trump’s hard line statement had shut North Korean dictator, Kim Jong Un down. “The administration is doing all the right things,” David Hemmings of the Henry Jackson Society told Fox News, “President Trump actually caught the regime off balance by using the same sort of rhetoric against them.”
That anyone would have believed that simply because Kim did not immediately carry through with his various threats (including striking the U.S. Territory of Guam), meant that Trump’s brash comments would stop North Korean nuclear tests or missile launches, seemed silly then and even more so now.
Since Trump’s blustery warning, North Korea has:
- tested a variety of missiles including three short range Scud types launched this past Saturday.
- fired 300mm rocket artillery from a multiple rocket launcher.
- conducted conventional warfare military exercises simulating tactics and strategy purposed for the invasion of South Korea, while Kim Jong Un issues statement that DPRK commanders “should think of mercilessly wiping out the enemy with arms only and occupying Seoul at one go and the southern half of Korea”, state media KCNA claimed.
In response to the regularly conducted Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercises that the U.S. and South Korea began on August 21, North Korea’s military stated it would launch an unspecified “merciless retaliation and unsparing punishment” on the U.S. and South Korea.
The most recent evidence that Trump’s tough warning had no impact on Kim’s thinking, came early Tuesday, Korea time. Japanese officials reported that North Korea fired a missile over Japan.
Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the missile fell into the sea 1,180 km (735 miles) east of Cape Erimo on Hokkaido.
Japanese and South Korean intelligence agencies suspect the missile was a Hwasong-12 – the same missile that North Korea said would be fired at Guam.
South Korea estimated the NK missile launch as originating close to the capitol, Pyongyang shortly prior to 6 a.m. (2100 GMT Monday) and ranged a distance of 2,700 km (1,680 miles), reaching an altitude of about 550 km (340 miles).
The Japanese government maintains a satellite based warning system (J-Alert) that broadcasts emergency notices on radio, television and public address systems advising citizens of weather events like storms and Tsunamis, but also earthquakes, and in this case, threatening missiles. The J-Alert system was activated for this event and the bullet trains halted operations for an hour or so until more information was forthcoming.
“North Korea’s reckless action is an unprecedented, serious and a grave threat to our nation,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters.
A meeting of the U.N. Security Council was requested and is expected to convene sometime on Tuesday to discuss a response to North Korea’s actions.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull spoke with reporters on Australian radio, telling them that “China has to ratchet up the pressure. They have condemned these missiles tests like everyone else but with unique leverage comes unique responsibility.”
Various foreign policy and military experts that focus on the North Korean situation, have differing views on what the most productive course of action is.
They point to a variety of approaches – placement of missile defense systems like the Patriot; conducting more frequent joint military exercises with our allies; locating nuclear missiles in South Korea; continuing the cyber warfare program and sanctions – but few think that Donald Trump engaging in verbal brinkmanship is going to yield any benefits while back channel diplomacy is being conducted between representatives such as Joseph Yun, U.S. envoy and Pak Song Il, the North Korean diplomat at the U.N. mission.
The events that have taken place since August 9th, have amply demonstrated that.