After a series of short-range missile launches over the weekend, North Korea decided to further flex its military muscles by launching a projectile over Hokkaido island, where the Japanese and United States were conducting joint military exercises. Needless to say, the launch caught both governments by surprise, resulting in a late night 40-minute phone call between President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. In a statement released soon after, Abe said, “Japan’s and the U.S. positions are totally at one.” Trump echoed these sentiments in an official White House release Tuesday morning.
“The world has received North Korea’s latest message loud and clear,” said Trump. “This regime has signaled its contempt for its neighbors, for all members of the United Nations, and for minimum standards of acceptable international behavior.” As a result of their recent behavior, the president declared “all options are on the table” since “[t]hreatening and destabilizing actions only increase the North Korean regime’s isolation in the region and among all nations of the world.”
The apparent international unity displayed by Abe and Trump’s separate statements notwithstanding, the White House’s sudden change in tactics is telling. Previous responses to North Korea’s aggression varied as widely as new economic sanctions against China and Russia, and Trump’s infamous “fire and fury” comments. Yet prior to his public ousting from the administration, Steve Bannon noted there was “no military solution” to Kim Jong-un’s constant threats regarding his country’s nuclear capabilities.