On May 14, 2017, North Korea launched a ballistic missile from the northwestern part of the country. South Korean Joints Chief of Staff confirmed the launch. This comes after the South Korean President Moon Jae-in took office on May 10, 2017. Soon after assuming power, Moon advocated dialogue with North Korea to denuclearize.
This is the first provocative move by North Korea since Moon's official Presidentship. Such a move has disturbed not only the region, including Japan but also the international community, specifically, the United States of America and the United Nations. Will President Moon be able to convince North Korea to move towards denuclearisation? Will convincing Kim Jon-Un help solve the strained US-North Korea relations?
Let's take a look at the developments of the latest missile launch.
North Korea's missile launch has rippled waters across her neighbourhood and beyond. Expressing his displeasure over the launch, President Moon's spokesman Yoon Young-Chan said that the missile test violates UN Security Council resolutions and called it a severe challenge to the peace and security of the Korean Peninsula and the world. The President during a meeting told his staff that South Korea needs to show the North that even though talks are possible, it will only be possible if North Korea changes its attitude. He said that South Korea will respond to provocations.
On the other hand, the United States called for consequences from the international community. "Let this latest provocation serve as a call for all nations to implement far stronger sanctions against North Korea," White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said in a statement.
According to the calculations made by the US, the missile had landed in water 60 miles south of Vladivostok region in Russia. Hawaii Pacific University Professor and former Director of Operations at the US Pacific Command's Joint Intelligence Carl Schuster, said, "The direction of the missile, so close to Russia, was likely an attempt by North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un to send a message to both Moscow and Beijing." Schuster said, "It tells Russia, 'I can touch you too'." "It tells China, 'I don't care what you think, I'm independent,'" he said. China is one of North Korea's only allies and is responsible for much of the heavily-sanctioned nation's economy.
On the same day, May 14, 2017, Chinese leader Xi Jinping launched a major trade and infrastructure summit with multiple world leaders in Beijing. The Summit was attended by Russian President Vladamir Putin and North Korean delegation. Commenting on the Summit, Schuster said, "The timing is not coincidental. Kim may be trying to get Putin more involved on the situation on the Korean Peninsula. It's his way of telling the Russians, 'You need to speak up,'" and stop US-supported international sanctions on North Korea.
Soon after the test, China called for restraint by all parties. "The current situation on the Korean Peninsula is complex and sensitive. All sides should exercise restraint and refrain from taking actions that would further escalate tensions in the region," read a statement from China's Foreign Ministry.
South Korean military responded that the missile, launched near the city of Kusong, flew 700 kilometers (435 miles). The US defense official confirmed that it flew that far, but said the US was still investigating to determine the type of missile.
A quick response came from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe who condemned the missile launch. Abe said, "Despite strong warning from the international community, North Korea launched a ballistic missile again," adding, "This is totally unacceptable and we strongly protest it. North Korea's missile launch is a serious threat to Japan and clearly violate against the UN Resolution."
The current projectile launch is a follow up of a ballistic missile test that North Korea carried on April 29, 2017. That test was considered a failed one by both South Korean and US. The April 29 missile blew up over land in North Korean territory. North Korea has carried out several such launches. Since US President Donald Trump took the office, North Korea has launched ted at least nine missiles on six different occasions.
North Korea and the US have displayed tensions in their bilateral relations, given North Korea's increasing nuclear program. Despite the rising tensions between the two powers, a senior North Korean diplomat told South Korea's Yonhap News Agency on May 13, 2017, that Pyongyang is open to talks with Washington "under the right conditions."
This is a reiteration of Donald Trump's statement, who had earlier this month said that he would be willing to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un only "under the right circumstances." What are these "right circumstances"? Why is US disturbed with North Korea's nuclear program?