After going for one month without a ballistic missile test - which some analysts had taken as indication that Trump's hard-ball tactics with Kim Jong Un are bearing fruit - on Saturday morning local time, North Korea has launched at least three ballistic missiles into the East Sea according to South Korean and U.s. militaries Yonhap reports. According to USPACOM, the first and third missiles failed in flight, and the second blew up shortly after launch.
The North fired "several unidentified projectiles" from the vicinity Gitdaeryong in Gangwon Province starting at around 6:49 a.m., said the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS). Some of those flew more than 250 kilometers in the northeastern direction, it added.
The U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) confirmed the launch: "Initial assessment indicates three short-range ballistic missile launches."
"The first and third missiles at 11:49 a.m. (Hawaii time) and 12:19 p.m. failed in flight," the PACOM's spokesman Cdr. David Benham said in an emailed statement. "The second missile launch at 12:07 p.m. appears to have blown up almost immediately."
The full Pacific Command statement is below:
Separately, NORAD has determined that the three ballistic missile launches did not pose a threat to North America, he added. South Korea and U.S. armed forces are conducing their annual joint drills, called Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG), in Korea.
The North's provocation was immediately reported to President Moon Jae-in, added the JCS. The presidential office Cheong Wa Dae convened a National Security Council meeting to discuss the issue.
To be sure, the missile launch was to be expected, after the DPRK hinted one would be forthcoming in response to the ongoing Ulchi Freedom Guardian large-scale military exercises between South Korea and the United States. North Korea has also repeatedly threatened to attack Guam, a Pacific island territory of the US that carries a large American military presence.
Japanese government officials told Japan's Kyodo news service that the North has fired "a projectile" into the waters between the Korean peninsula and Japan. If confirmed, it will be the North's 13th missile test this year, and its first since restrictive new UN sanctions were imposed earlier this month. In July, the rogue state launched two intercontinental ballistic missiles, which North Korea claims could reach "anywhere in the world." The last missile launch was on July 28, a test of the long-range Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that could potentially strike the US mainland.
Ironically, on Tuesday Rex Tillerson openly said in Washington that, "I am pleased to see that the regime in Pyongyang has certainly demonstrated some level of restraint that we've not seen in the past." He expressed hope for dialogue with Pyongyang.
President Donald Trump also voiced cautious optimism, talking about the North's leader Kim Jong-un. "I respect the fact that he is starting to respect us," Trump said at a campaign rally earlier this week. "And maybe - probably not, but maybe - something positive can come about." So much for that.
And now that Kim John Un has once again provoked and openly defied Trump before the entire world, the ball is in the US president's court, which is problem as Trump had escalated the mutually assured jawboning to such a degree, that following this stark provocation by Pyongyang, any non-response by the US president will be perceived as a sign of great weakness, and will hardly be approved by either of the two Generals that now advise Trump on a daily basis.