North Korea just launched their eighteenth missile of 2017, aiming it at Japan. The missile flew over Japan and fell into the Pacific Ocean, in what the Washington Post accurately described as “the most brazen provocation of Kim Jong Un’s five-year-long rule.” The nation had not, prior to their most recent missile launch, aimed a weapon so directly at Japan ever before.
Last time that North Korea fired off a missile, President Trump responded with rhetoric that many decried as unnecessarily provocative. In remarks that he made up on the spot, Trump promised to make “fire and fury” rain down on North Korea in the event that they continued with their provocation.
The president has now responded to the latest North Korean missile launch, and his response is somewhat less belligerent than the one promising “fire and fury.” Still, it’s worth noting that this statement was released by the White House, not delivered live by the president himself. Thus, the president simply hasn’t had the opportunity to pepper his remarks about North Korea with belligerence.
In response to the latest launch, Trump echoed comments from his administration’s ambassador to the United Nations, saying that “all options are on the table” — including, apparently, pre-emptive military strikes.
‘The world has received North Korea’s latest message loud and clear: this regime has signaled its contempt for its neighbors, for all members of the United Nations, and for minimum standards of acceptable international behavior. Threatening and destabilizing actions only increase the North Korean regime’s isolation in the region and among all nations of the world. All options are on the table.’
Trump’s recent “fire and fury” threat came after the North Koreans threatened to launch a missile at the tiny U.S. Pacific territory of Guam earlier this summer. The North Koreans eventually backed off that threat, saying that they would “watch the Yankees a little longer” before making their final decision about whether or not to carry out the launch.
As for how much substance is behind the president’s assertion that “all options are on the table,” CNN’s Will Ripley — the only Western reporter operating inside the North Korean regime at present — described the launch location for this latest missile — it came from near Pyongyang — as “highly provocative.” He said that the choice of launching the missile from near a large population area may be meant to “deliver a message that pre-emptive US strikes on missile launch facilities could land uncomfortably close to civilians.”
Indeed, this concern was raised recently by the now former presidential chief strategist Steve Bannon, of all people, who told the American Spectator just before he officially lost his job that there is no viable military solution to the North Korean threat and that Trump’s assertions to the contrary are all just smoke and mirrors.
Bannon’s assessment was that the U.S. could not take out the North Korean missile program without putting millions of people on the Korean peninsula in danger.
Even still, Trump remains apparently open to military action, having sent a U.S. Navy strike crew to the waters off the Korean peninsula earlier this year, a provocative move that one bit of somewhat measured rhetoric does not erase.