North Korea reached another milestone on its path towards a seventh underground nuclear test when it test-fired a Hwasong-17 ICBM on Friday. The missile landed near Japanese waters, raising already high tensions in the region even more. The Hwasong-17 is an intercontinental ballistic missile still under development by the North. It has a range estimated at greater than 9,000 miles and will have the ability to hold MIRVs, or in layman’s terms more than one nuclear warhead.
On Sunday, the US, South Korea and Japan released a statement condemning North Korea’s recent wave of ballistic missile firings. The leaders of the three nations also pledged to work closer to strengthen deterrence. Condemnation of this particular missile test came swiftly from the United States and many of its allies in the region. The US Vice President, in Bangkok attending a Asian-Pacific Cooperative Forum said, “We strongly condemn these actions, and we again call for North Korea to stop further unlawful, destabilizing acts. On behalf of the United States, I reaffirm our ironclad commitment to our Indo-Pacific Alliances. Together the countries represented here will continue to urge North Korea to commit to serious and sustained diplomacy.” A canned political statement to be sure, and between the lines it appears to confirm the US will continue regarding North Korea’s increasing boldness as a nuisance rather than a direct threat to the United States.
Washington’s continued indifference could turn out to be a cataclysmic mistake which costs hundreds of thousands of NK, ROK and American lives one day.