In an alarming development in the midst of worsening international instability, it was revealed this week that North Korea conducted testing of an intermediate-range ballistic missile with the ability to reach American military facilities in Guam, as the Associated Press reports.
The launch represents North Korea’s most substantial such test in years, and according to the AP, it could represent the start of additional “provocations” involving threats to the U.S. mainland in efforts to secure concessions on sanctions from the Biden administration as well as global acknowledgment of the country’s legitimacy as a nuclear state.
According to military representatives from Japan and South Korea, the missile launch achieved a top altitude of approximately 1,242 miles on Sunday morning, as the Washington Examiner reported, and the missile itself traveled for around half an hour before finishing its path in waters near Japan.
As ABC News noted, Sunday’s event was the seventh round of missile launches undertaken by North Korea just this month, a pace suggestive of the country’s desire to up the ante on President Joe Biden, win economic relief, and demonstrate its determination to hold tightly to its nuclear priorities.
In the immediate aftermath of the launch, South Korean President Moon Jae-in held an emergency meeting of his country’s National Security Council and suggested the test was perhaps a “mid-range ballistic missile launch” that came very close to a breach of North Korea’s self-imposed moratorium on such endeavors, which dates back to 2018.
Notably, on Jan. 20, Kim Jong Un of North Korea presided over a meeting of his ruling party in which it was suggested that a lifting of the aforementioned moratorium could be in the offing due to perceived hostility and provocation from the U.S.
South Korea’s Moon warned that the current situation is reminiscent of 2017, a dangerous time when North Korea engaged in a series of long-range missile tests and nuclear development activity and argued that it has now effectively launched a “challenge toward the international community’s efforts to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, stabilize peace and find a diplomatic solution.”
Officials from the White House reportedly view Sunday’s test as part and parcel of heightened tensions and provocations from Kim that are cause for real concern, according to ABC News.
Though Biden administration officials are said to be planning a still-undetermined response to the recent test that is meant to demonstrate a strong commitment to allies in the region, precisely how much strength this president is willing – or capable – of showing in this context, is something that remains to be seen.