If a secondary goal of the Trump administration's recent bombing of a Syrian airfield was to send a strong a message to North Korea that their missile launch provocations will not be tolerated, it didn't work.
According to the Associated Press, a North Korean Foreign Ministry official recently spoke on the state-run Korean Central News Agency and described U.S. airstrikes in Syria as "absolutely unpardonable" and said they simply served to prove that its nuclear weapons are justified to protect the country against Washington's "evermore reckless moves for a war."
"Some forces are loud-mouthed that the recent U.S. military attack on Syria is an action of warning us but we are not frightened by it," the report said, adding that the North's "tremendous military muscle with a nuclear force as its pivot" will foil any aggression by the U.S.
"We will bolster up in every way our capability for self-defense to cope with the U.S. evermore reckless moves for a war and defend ourselves with our own force," it said.
For its part, as we noted last week, North Korea test-launched a ballistic missile just ahead of the Trump-Xi meeting and has been rumored to be preparing for a possible nuclear test. This latest provocation prompted the following terse response from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, suggesting that the Trump administration's next move will involve military force rather than diplomacy.
“North Korea launched yet another intermediate range ballistic missile. The United States has spoken enough about North Korea. We have no further comment.”
Tensions have been even higher than usual over the past few weeks because annual war games between the U.S. and South Korean militaries are underway. The exercises this year are the biggest ever and have included stealth fighter training and other maneuvers that are particularly sensitive to North Korea.
Meanwhile, former MI6 chief, Sir John Sawers, warned in a BBC interview that a military conflict in North Korea is far more likely to bring about an international crisis than the conflict in Syria.
“[Trump’s] not someone who fills me with confidence. He doesn’t have the background and the experience and the instincts of being an effective US president, but it is in our interests that we have a US administration that upholds the international system, that supports its allies and supports international norms."
“We see the sensible grown-ups within the administration taking charge and the rather ideological figures around Trump himself being marginalized, and that’s to be welcomed."
“If you are looking for a world crisis which could bring about the dangers of a clash between great powers then North Korea is a bigger concern than Syria."
“I think what the Chinese are beginning to understand is that if this can’t be solved peaceably through negotiations, through pressure, then there is serious risk that the US will have only one option left, which is the military option."
And while most of the world is not all that eager for World War III to get underway, John McCain continues with his attempts to pick a fight with Kim Jong Un, the "crazy, fat kid running North Korea."
McCain describes Kim Jong Un: “this crazy, fat kid that’s running North Korea” pic.twitter.com/FS6oiXRnR7— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) March 23, 2017