President Trump is Making the North Korea Crisis Worse
The administration has no clear strategy — and an even less clear message.
North Korea’s launch of a ballistic missile over Japan on Monday night marked a significant escalation in its recent spate of missile and nuclear tests. Over the last year, Kim Jong Un has conducted a continued march of these tests. Unlike his father and grandfather, who used such tests both to advance the country’s program and as provocations aimed at an external audience, Kim has largely eschewed the provocation-cycle pattern and focused instead on an unrelenting march to secure nuclear weapons and the capability to deliver them.
But this launch was different.
Launching a ballistic missile over Japan is a serious provocation, and while the test would have helped North Korea gather important technical data about the missile and its reentry vehicle, it also was clearly intended to send a signal. Kim’s move was aimed at shaking the confidence of our allies. The test comes as the United States and South Korea are in the middle of annual joint exercises, and while the United States and Japan were conducting missile defense drills. Warnings of a potential inbound missile sounded across parts of northern Japan and were replayed by Japanese media across the country. By taking such a provocative step, Kim knew he would rattle nerves in Japan and South Korea, possibly prompting questions about whether the United States would be able to defend its allies should they come under attack.