North Korea test fired an unidentified ballistic missile from the country’s western region Sunday morning.
According to Reuters, North Korea fired the missile just weeks after supreme leader Kim Jong Un warned during his New Year’s address that the country was in the “final stage” of testing an intercontinental ballistic missile.
The ballistic missile reportedly flew over 300 miles before splashing down in the sea. The South Korean military is analyzing the launch data to gain information about the type of weapon fired; however, they suspect that the missile may have been a Musudan intermediate-range ballistic missile. The missile was fired near an airbase in Kusong, North Pyongan Province, where North Korea tested two Musudan missiles in October last year.
Sunday’s test marks the first provocation of the new U.S. administration. The South Korean military called the test a “show of force” in response to President Donald Trump’s hard-line stance on North Korea’s weapons programs.
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis traveled to South Korea last week for a meeting with Defense Minister Han Min Koo and pledged the U.S. will not stand idly by in the face of North Korean aggression.
“North Korea continues to launch missiles, develop its nuclear weapons program, and engage in threatening rhetoric and behavior,” Mattis said. “We stand with our peace-loving Republic of Korea ally to maintain stability on the peninsula and in the region. America’s commitments to defending our allies and to upholding our extended deterrence guarantees remain ironclad. Any attack on the United States, or our allies, will be defeated, and any use of nuclear weapons would be met with a response that would be effective and overwhelming.”
Mattis added that the U.S. intends to deploy a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system in South Korea, which would offer protection to South Korea and Japan in the event of a missile strike from North Korea. Both China and Russia oppose the delivery of the THAAD, but Mattis has tried to assuage their fears by saying that no one else but North Korea should be worried about the missile defense system.
After Kim Jong Un delivered his New Year’s address, then-President-elect Donald Trump stated that there was no way North Korea would create a nuclear weapon that could hit the United States.
“North Korea just stated that it is in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the U.S. It won’t happen!” Trump tweeted.
Pyongyang conducted two nuclear tests and roughly two dozen ballistic missile tests in 2016.
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