South Korea and the U.S. confirm North Korea launched a single ballistic missile at a facility near Sinpo at 6:42 a.m. Wednesday Seoul time (5:42 p.m. Tuesday ET). It landed in the waters near near Japan. U.S. Pacific Command’s initial assessments indicate the type of missile was a KN-15 medium-range ballistic missile.
It was North Korea’s fourth attempted missile launch of the year. The third failed at launch. The last successful attempt was on March 6, when North Korea fired four missiles at the same time, also into the same waters — the Sea of Japan (or as Koreans prefer to call it, the “East Sea”). Three of the four landed in Japan’s special economic zone.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson released this statement:
“North Korea launched yet another intermediate range ballistic missile. The United States has spoken enough about North Korea. We have no further comment.”
The latest launch comes as South Korea and the U.S. wrap up their annual spring joint military exercises on the peninsula, which North Korea objects to because it views the drills as preparation for war. The U.S. has consistently said the war games are defensive.
It’s also an uncertain time for the region as the nascent Trump administration has yet to spell out its broader strategy for North Korea, which has increased its nuclear capabilities over the past few years. Ignoring numerous condemnations and sanctions from the international community, North Korea has continued to test its missile capabilities and its nuclear devices. Another nuclear test could be coming, according to observers at the Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies.
China and the U.S. leaders will meet at President Trump’s private Florida golf club this week, and North Korea is expected to top the agenda. The U.S. has pressed China to take a tougher stand on its traditional ally and neighbor in North Korea, as China holds leverage because of its extensive trading and supply ties with Pyongyang. China, however, has said it has done plenty to try to curb the Kim Jong Un regime, including signing on to several rounds of United Nations sanctions. (Enforcement of the sanctions has been a trickier issue.)
Trump, in an interview with the Financial Times this week, said, “China will either decide to help us with North Korea, or they won’t. And if they do that will be very good for China, and if they don’t it won’t be good for anyone.”
It’s not clear what he meant by that, specifically.
Jihye Lee contributed to this post.