the last five years, North Korea has test fired more than 50 ballistic missiles in an effort to perfect a technology that its opponents fear might someday deliver a nuclear weapon.
So the launch of a missile on Sunday that soared 300 miles across North Korea from west to east before crashing harmlessly into the Sea of Japan might have been another of those tests.
Or it could have been a test of President Trump.
The reclusive country's leader, Kim Jong Un, didn’t detail his government’s motives for launching the missile — the first such test since before last year’s U.S. presidential election. State media on Monday morning characterized it as successful. North Korea watchers suggested several possible reasons for the timing, both practical and geopolitical.
The regime has made missile technology — especially a long-range missile capable of reaching other continents — a national priority, and the test could have been a logical extension of that effort. The launch might also have been an attempt to discern how the Trump administration, which is still formulating its North Korean strategy after visits to Japan and South Korea last week by Defense Secretary James Mattis, might react.
It’s possible, too, that the launch was set to coincide with the birthday of Kim Jong Il, the current leader’s late father.
“A test like this serves all three purposes at once,” said Sheena Chestnut Greitens, a political science professor at the University of Missouri and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center for East Asia Policy Studies.
Regardless of motive, the action drew strong rebukes from South Korea and Japan as another violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions. Those rules are aimed, in part, at curbing the rogue state’s nuclear weapons development.
U.S. military officials said the missile never posed a threat to North America, and the test hasn’t yet prompted a strong response from President Trump, who coincidentally was hosting the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, for the weekend at his resort in Florida.
But Abe called the test "absolutely intolerable." Japan’s capital, Tokyo, is about 800 miles from Pyongyang.
"North Korea must fully comply with the relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions," he said at a news conference in Palm Springs, Fla., with Trump standing beside him.
After Abe spoke, Trump said “the United States of America stands behind Japan, its great ally, 100%.” He didn’t take questions or speak specifically about the test, however. He has said, though, that North Korea is a top priority for his administration.
Officials in South Korea, whose capital is within range of such a missile, condemned what they called the “irrational nature” of the action.
“It is also a grave threat to the peace and security of the Korean peninsula and the international community as a whole,” according to a statement issued by the South Korean Foreign Affairs Ministry.
Read more from the source article published in the The Los Angeles Times