North Korea Reportedly Conducts Its First Missile Test Since Donald Trump Became President

Following promises to ramp up testing at the start of the year, North Korea has reportedly conducted their first intermediate range ballistic missile test of 2017. The test is the first since Donald Trump became President of the United States and comes on the heels of a meeting between the president and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that called on the DPRK to abandon its nuclear and missile programs.

According to CNN, the State Department is aware of the launch and is “monitoring the situation carefully,” while others feel this is the nation’s first step towards an intercontinental ballistic missile test:

“That’s the goal of the North Korean politicians,” [Retired Lt. General Mark Hertling] said. “This intermediate ballistic missile is certainly dangerous. It has a greater range than some of the Musudan missiles that they have been testing prior to that. And it’s not only a concern for the United States to hit the mainland, but it also has concerns for all of our Asia partners.”

North Korea was reportedly readying at least two ICBM missiles to test back in January but has yet to test any weapons with those capabilities. ABC News reports that the missile today was likely a Musudan but U.S. Strategic Command was trying to determine the type. Despite eight Musudan tests in the past, only one was a success. Sunday’s test reportedly flew for 310 miles according to South Korea’s joint Chiefs of Staff.

The test was predicted by some analysts according to ABC News. Not only does it precede the birthday of late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il on February 16th, but it also comes two weeks before the largest ever joint military exercise between the United States and South Korea. Secretary of Defense James Mattis was in South Korea last week, reconfirming plans to bring back a US missile defense system to the country and laying out a stern warning to the dictatorship to the north according to the New York Times:

“Thaad is for defense of our allies’ people, of our troops who are committed to their defense,” Mr. Mattis told reporters, using the acronym for Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, the American antimissile system. It is meant to intercept North Korea’s medium-range missiles.

“Were it not for the provocative behavior of North Korea, we would have no need for Thaad out here,” Mr. Mattis added. “There is no other nation that needs to be concerned about Thaad.”

Mattis also warned that any use of nuclear weapons by North Korea would be met with an “effective and overwhelming” response according to BBC News. The United States response will be one of the first tests for President Trump’s foreign policy, especially if claims made by North Korea regarding their ICBM capabilities is confirmed in the coming weeks.

(Via CNN / New York Times / ABC News / BBC News)