July 5, 2017

Before Air Force One left for Poland on Wednesday, President Trump reacted to news of North Korea's successful intercontinental ballistic missile by once again bashing China for failed negotiations:

In response to shouted questions from reporters about North Korea's ICBM test, Trump ambiguously added: "We're going to do very well."

Trump's options are limited and grim, though. Read more about how America should handle the North Korea problem here at The Week. Jeva Lange

July 5, 2017

"Self-restraint" is all that separates "armistice and war" with North Korea, the commander of U.S. troops in Seoul, Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, warned Wednesday following North Korea's first intercontinental ballistic missile test, The New York Times reports. The North's Hwasong-14 traveled just 578 miles in its test Tuesday, although defense experts said that on a modified trajectory the weapon has the ability to hit Alaska and possibly Hawaii, with Israeli missile-defense engineer Uzi Rubin telling The Wall Street Journal he believes the missile could even hit San Francisco.

Japan and South Korea, which have long been in North Korea's range, are reportedly growing nervous about how far America's "self-restraint" might stretch. The Wall Street Journal writes that "with San Francisco potentially at risk, those allies could start to doubt the U.S.'s commitment, said Adam Mount, senior fellow with the left-leaning Center for American Progress think tank in Washington."

In particular, Japan is reportedly exploring buying ballistic missile defense systems from the United States, technology that many experts remain doubtful of, as well as cruise missiles, which would be strongly opposed in the confrontation-averse country. Despite an American official telling The New York Times the discussions were legitimate, Japan's Defense Ministry spokesman, Yasushi Kojima, denied the cruise missiles were on the table.

Options, though, are "more grim than ever," the Times writes. A pre-emptive attack by the West would not likely decapitate the North's military, or even nuclear, capabilities due to the country's many hidden underground facilities. "Even the most limited strike risks staggering casualties," the Times adds, "because North Korea could retaliate with the thousands of artillery pieces it has positioned along its border with the South."

"North Korea knows it is the end game and will not go down without a fight," the RAND Corporation's Jeffrey W. Hornung said of such a scenario. "I think it is going to be a barrage." Jeva Lange

July 4, 2017
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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson condemned North Korea's launch Tuesday of an intercontinental ballistic missile, calling it a "new escalation of the threat to the United States, our allies and partners, the region, and the world."

In a statement, Tillerson said any country that "hosts North Korean guest workers, provides any economic or military benefits, or fails to fully implement UN Security Council resolutions is aiding and abetting a dangerous regime." The United States will bring North Korea's "provocative action" to the United Nations Security Council, he added, and enact "stronger measures" to hold the country accountable. Tillerson also called on world leaders to "publicly demonstrate" to North Korea that there are "consequences to their pursuit of nuclear weapons," and said the U.S. and other countries have "made clear we will never accept a nuclear-armed North Korea." Catherine Garcia

July 4, 2017
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North Korea says on Tuesday it successfully tested an intercontinental ballistic missile that is the "final step" in making the country a "confident and powerful nuclear state that can strike anywhere on Earth."

U.S., Japanese, and South Korean officials said the missile was launched at a high trajectory from close to an airfield northwest of Pyongyang, traveling 580 miles and reaching an altitude of 1,500 miles with a flight time of 40 minutes. It landed in Japan's Exclusive Economic Zone, and experts said such a missile could be capable of reaching Alaska. North Korea has said it wants to have a missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead to the U.S. mainland.

North Korea has been banned by the U.N. Security Council from engaging in ballistic activities, and is one of the most sanctioned countries on Earth. The launch comes ahead of the G-20 summit in Germany, where world leaders will discuss ways to deal with North Korea and its weapons program. China has called on North Korea to "stop taking actions that violate United Nations Security Council resolutions." Catherine Garcia

July 3, 2017
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President Trump on Sunday evening spoke by phone with both Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping. The separate conversations addressed the same topic — the growing concerns about North Korea's aggression — but the readouts of the phone calls, released by the White House, suggest each was tailored to reflect "the difference in the bilateral relationships between the countries," Politico notes.

Here's the Japanese statement: "The two leaders exchanged views on the growing threat from North Korea, including their unity with respect to increasing pressure on the regime to change its dangerous path. They reaffirmed that the United States-Japan Alliance stands ready to defend and respond to any threat or action taken by North Korea."

And the China statement: "President Trump raised the growing threat posed by North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programs. Both leaders reaffirmed their commitment to a denuclearized Korean Peninsula."

In his conversation with Xi, Trump also "reiterated his determination to seek more balanced trade relations with America's trading partners," suggesting he may revisit his plan to use tariffs, perhaps on steel imports, to punish China for not reining in North Korea.

Chinese state media reported that Xi told Trump that U.S.-China relations have been strained by "some negative factors." That was likely an allusion to a controversial U.S. arms deal with Taiwan, and the U.S.'s recent move into territorial waters in the South China Sea.

Back in April, Trump promised that China would get a "far better trade deal" with the U.S. if the country could "solve the North Korean problem!" Jessica Hullinger

June 7, 2017
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South Korea's military says that on Thursday, North Korea fired what looked like several land-to-ship missiles off its east coast that flew about 124 miles.

The missiles were launched from Wonsan, South Korea's Office of Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in has been briefed. This is North Korea's fourth missile test since Moon took office in mid-May; Pyongyang has recently tested ballistic missiles, medium- to long-range missiles, and a short-range Scud class weapon, Reuters reports. The United Nations passed new sanctions on North Korea last week, but Pyongyang is refusing to give up its nuclear and missile programs, saying the weapons are necessary due to U.S. aggression.

On Wednesday, Moon's office said it was postponing the installation of four more U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-missile system (THAAD) launchers, because the new administration wants to assess the system's environmental impact. The system is controversial, with China concerned that it will mess up the region's security balance. Catherine Garcia

May 22, 2017
Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ordered Sunday's launch of a new medium-range missile, and after it was deemed a success, he "approved the deployment of this weapon system for action" and called for it to be "rapidly mass-produced," North Korean state media said.

The Pukguksong-2 missile traveled for about 310 miles, reaching a height of 350 miles, before it fell into the Pacific Ocean. It is a solid-fuel missile, meaning it is fueled up prior to being moved into place and can be launched quickly. State media said more missiles will be launched soon, calling them an "answer" to the policies of President Trump. On Fox News Sunday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that North Korea's testing is "disappointing" and "disturbing." Catherine Garcia

May 14, 2017
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The ballistic rocket test conducted by North Korea on Sunday was "aimed at verifying the tactical and technological specifications" of a newly developed missile "capable of carrying a large-size heavy nuclear warhead," the country's official KCNA news agency said Monday.

The launch was supervised by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, KCNA said, and the missile flew 490 miles and reached an altitude of 1,312 miles. Experts say the missile was launched at its highest angle, and if it was fired at a standard trajectory, it would be able to travel as far as 2,500 miles. U.S. Pacific Command said the type of missile launched was "not consistent with an intercontinental ballistic missile." Kim was likely trying to send a message to South Korea's new leader, Moon Jae-in, who was sworn in on Wednesday and said his country is "leaving open the possibility of dialogue with North Korea." The missile landed in the sea near Russia. Catherine Garcia

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