President Trump said Tuesday that “all options are on the table” after North Korea launched a missile over Japan, an act that instantly renewed tensions in the region just days after the regime appeared to be backing down from threats against the U.S. and its allies.
“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,” Trump said, in a written statement released by the White House.
In a first, North Korea on Tuesday fired a midrange ballistic missile designed to carry a nuclear payload that flew over U.S. ally Japan and splashed into the northern Pacific Ocean.
The distance and type of missile test seemed designed to show that North Korea can back up a threat to target the U.S. territory of Guam, if it chooses to do so, while also establishing a potentially dangerous precedent that could see future missiles flying over Japan.
The White House said that Trump spoke Monday with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe about the “grave” North Korean threat. “President Trump and Prime Minister Abe committed to increasing pressure on North Korea, and doing their utmost to convince the international community to do the same,” the statement said.
Any new test worries Washington and its allies because it presumably puts the North a step closer toward its goal of an arsenal of nuclear missiles that can reliably target the United States. Tuesday’s test, however, looks especially aggressive to Washington, Seoul and Tokyo.
The Pentagon told reporters that it was investigating the launch over Japan, adding: “North American Aerospace Defense Command determined the missile launch from North Korea did not pose a threat to North America.” The U.S. Missile Defense Agency said the Japanese military did not attempt to intercept the missile.
South Korea’s air force effectively fired back at North Korea’s missile launch over Japan by conducting a live-fire drill involving powerful bombs, officials said early Tuesday.
Four F-15 fighters dropped eight MK-84 bombs that accurately hit targets at a military field near South Korea’s eastern coast, Seoul’s presidential spokesman Park Su-hyun said. Each bomb has an explosive yield of a ton, according to the country’s air force.
Tuesday’s launch comes days after the North fired what was assessed as three short-range ballistic missiles into the sea and a month after its second test of an intercontinental ballistic missile, which analysts say could reach deep into the U.S. mainland when perfected.
Trump responded earlier this month by threatening Kim Jong Un’s regime with “fire and fury,” touching off an escalating war of words. Kim eventually walked back threats to attack the U.S. territory of Guam, temporarily easing tensions — until the latest round of provocations.