President Donald Trump is resuming his hawkish stance against North Korea after they launched a Hwasong-12, an intermediate-range ballistic missile, over Japan and into the Pacific Ocean.
The decision to launch the missile to the northeast rather than near Guam most likely reflects a desire by North Korea to flex its muscles without outright provoking the United States, according to a report by The Washington Post. As Japanese foreign minister Taro Kono told reporters following the successful North Korean launch, "If North Korea had launched the missile to the south, the U.S. might have viewed it as a considerable provocation and responded accordingly."
It seems that Trump is already viewing the launches in that light. In a statement released after the launched, Trump said that "the world has received North Korea’s latest message loud and clear: This regime has signaled its contempt for its neighbors, for all members of the United Nations, and for minimum standards of acceptable international behavior."
He added, "Threatening and destabilizing actions only increase the North Korean regime’s isolation in the region and among all nations of the world. All options are on the table."
Not surprisingly, both Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Moon Jae-in have denounced the North Korean launch, while China has urged all sides to exercise restraint. The Chinese geopolitical stance here is torn between concern about North Korean militarism and fear that Japan and South Korea will increase their military strength in response and thus diminish China's power in the region.
During a daily press briefing in Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said, "Think hard about it, who do you think should take the blame, if China is urging all parties to calm down while one party holds constant military exercises . . . and the other is constantly launching missiles?"