North Korea missile launch marks a direct challenge to Trump administration – Washington Post

 In World
North Korea’s test launch Tuesday of what appeared to be an intercontinental ballistic missile marks a direct challenge to President Trump, whose tough talk has yet to yield any change in Pyongyang’s behavior as the regime continues its efforts to build a nuclear weapon capable of striking the mainland United States.

The latest missile flew higher and remained in the air longer than previous attempts — enough to reach all of Alaska, experts said, in a major milestone for North Korea’s weapons program.

The test comes just before Trump will see key Asian leaders and Russian President Vladi­mir Putin later this week. North Korea was already expected to be a main subject for meetings on the sidelines of the Group of 20 economic summit, but the test adds urgency to a widening U.S. campaign aimed at further isolating North Korea.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Army and the South Korean military answered North Korea’s launch with a missile exercise in response to “North Korea’s destabilizing and unlawful actions,” U.S. Pacific Command said in a statement. It was unclear how Pyongyang might react to the exercise, which launched missiles into South Korean territorial waters along the country’s eastern coastline.

“Together with the Republic of Korea, we conducted a combined exercise to show our precision-fire capability,” said Dana White, a Pentagon spokeswoman.

Trump responded to the North Korean missile test by applying rhetorical pressure on China, North Korea’s ally and economic lifeline, and by mocking dictator Kim Jong Un on Twitter.

“North Korea has just launched another missile. Does this guy have anything better to do with his life?” Trump asked in a message very shortly after the launch, which took place late Monday evening in the United States.

“Hard to believe that South Korea and Japan will put up with this much longer,” Trump continued. “Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!”

The launch follows a string of recent actions by Pyongyang, including a salvo of missiles last month and three tests in May. Kim has now launched more missiles in one year than his father and predecessor in the family dynasty did in 17 years in power.

North Korea has also conducted five nuclear weapons tests since 2006, including two last year.

The number and variety of tests worry experts who see each step as part of a march toward a missile capable of striking America’s West Coast.

The missile tests violate existing United Nations and other sanctions, which North Korea has found ways to evade. Although Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have declared that the “era of strategic patience” with North Korea is over, the new U.S. administration has not spelled out what that means.

Tillerson has said Washington might eventually negotiate with North Korea under the right circumstances, but he has suggested that possibility is remote. The United States will act alone if it must, he has warned, though he has not spelled out what exactly that would entail.

The Trump administration has recently leaned on China to rein in North Korea and curb illicit trade with the country, an international pariah largely cut off from the global financial system.

Given that Japan and South Korea are within range of existing North Korean missiles, Trump has also sought to unite leaders of both nations behind a strongly worded U.S. position that it will no longer tolerate the North’s provocations. The Trump administration has asked other nations around the globe to sever or downgrade diplomatic ties with Pyongyang.

Leaders of China, South Korea and Japan will be at the G-20 meeting in Germany.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appeared to share Trump’s frustration, if not his tone. In remarks to the news media, he vowed to work closely with the United States and South Korea, but called on China and Russia to do more.

“I’d like to strongly urge international society’s cooperation on the North Korea issue and urge China’s chairman, Xi Jinping, and Russia’s President Putin to take more constructive measures,” Abe said.

In a daily news conference, Geng Shuang, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, condemned the test but countered that Beijing had “spared no effort” in its fight.

On Tuesday, Russia and China jointly proposed that North Korea put further nuclear and missile tests on hold while the United States and ally South Korea refrain from large-scale military exercises. Both nations oppose North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. Both also oppose the U.S. anti-missile system being installed in South Korea.

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