Missile launch shows North ready to play chicken

Top News | 30 Aug 2017

A North Korea missile launch toward Guam would have crossed a red line for Washington, experts said yesterday, but Pyongyang instead selected a "halfway house" option by sending a missile over northern Japan into the Pacific.

"The North Koreans are being quite clever by asking a difficult question of a key ally in the western Pacific but not ratcheting up tensions to the point the United States would seriously consider military measures," said Euan Graham, the security program director at the Lowy Institute in Australia in referring to Japan.

After Pyongyang appeared to postpone a plan to send missiles at the US island of Guam, President Donald Trump declared that North leader Kim Jong Un was "starting to respect us."

As a result, said Cha Du Hyeogn of the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul, "it looked like North Korea backed off in a game of chicken."

But with a missile launch yesterday, he said, Pyongyang showed "it's not chicken. It has not backed off." Instead, it seemed "Washington is the one bluffing, with no concrete plan."

And Pyongyang ambassador Han Tae Song, addressing the UN Conference on Disarmament, said his country has a right to react to continuing US- South Korean military exercises "despite repeated warnings."

Without mentioning the launch, he said Washington would be responsible for "catastrophic consequences" because of tensions on the Korean peninsula.

The North always condemns the annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise and other joint drills as a rehearsal for invasion, while Seoul and Washington say they are defensive.

Across northern Japan, however, sirens blared yesterday morning to warn people in the missile's flight path to take cover.

"All lines are experiencing disruption," said a sign on Sapporo's metro system. "Reason: Ballistic missile launch."

The last time a North Korean rocket overflew Japan was in 2009.

Pyongyang last month carried out two ICBM tests that appeared to put the US mainland in range.


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