A North Korean missile landed in Japanese waters on Wednesday, providing a provocative reminder of the threat posed by the kinds of short-range weapons that the has been testing as President Donald Trump tries to resume nuclear talks with Kim Jong-un, the Supreme Leader of North Korea and Chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea.
The missile landed in Japan’s economic exclusion zone, escalating regional tensions that were already high after a series of missile launches this year and the decision by the United States to place a sophisticated anti-missile system in South Korea.
The U.S. Strategic Command said it had detected two missiles, one of which it said exploded immediately after launch.
The missile, which flew 280 miles and reached a height of 565 miles, originated in the waters northeast of Wonsan, North Korea, and may have been launched from a submarine, according to the South Korean military and the Japanese coast guard.
The missile launch came a day after North Korea said it would resume nuclear talks with the U.S. this weekend.
North Korea has conducted more than 10 test launches of missiles or projectiles since talks fell apart between Kimand Trump, who has said repeatedly claimed provocative actions were not a threat.
But Trump’s recently ousted national security adviser, John Bolton, said in a speech Monday that each test was a violation of United Nations Security Council sanctions imposed on North Korea.
“When the United States … says we really don’t care, other countries can draw the conclusion that they don’t really care about the sanctions,” he said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
In June 2018, Kim and Trump met in Singapore, for the first meeting between a North Korean leader and a sitting US President, to discuss the North Korean nuclear program.
A follow-up summit in Hanoi in February 2019 ended abruptly without an agreement.
The sort of major foreign policy victory that Trump seeks has eluded him so far, but that pursuit has distracted the US President from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s repeated declarations that North Korea’s launching of short- and intermediate-range missiles violates United Nations Security Council resolutions.
A United States State Department spokesperson condemned the launch, and said it would “only increase the international community’s resolve to counter” North Korea’s actions.
“The North Koreans see a U.S. administration in a weakened position due to the impeachment effort and Trump’s sagging polling numbers,” said Suzanne Dimaggio, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
The North’s leaders “likely sense Trump’s desperation for a win,” Dimaggio said, after his efforts to broker a peace agreement in Afghanistan fell apart at the last minute and a meeting during the United Nations General Assembly with President Hassan Rouhani of Iran did not materialize.
“They are well positioned to exploit his vulnerabilities,” she said.
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