Korean Peninsula — As Americans grilled burgers and watched fireworks in celebration of the Fourth of July on Tuesday, North Korea defiantly test-launched its first successful intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). Analysts say the missile flew higher and farther than any had before and could more than likely have reached Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.
Reporting on the launch on Wednesday, North Korea’s state-run media wrote that Kim Jong-un was “feasting his eyes” on the ICBM during the test and that “with a broad smile on his smile,” the leader encouraged his scientists to “frequently send big and small ‘gift packages’ to the Yankees.”
The same report suggested North Korea is already capable of attaching a large nuclear warhead to its ICBM, a claim analysts almost universally consider unfounded. In a separate article published Wednesday, Kim Jong-un also vowed he would never put his country’s nuclear weapons program on the negotiating table.
The U.S. reaction to the test-fire was immediate. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement that North Korea’s ICBM launch represented “a new escalation of the threat to the United States, our allies and partners, the region, and the world.” He further stated that “global action is required to stop a global threat.”
And action is exactly what the United States and South Korea demonstrated following the ICBM launch. In a statement released jointly, the two allies revealed that immediately following North Korea’s test-fire, the allies’ combined forces launched missiles of their own into the waters off the eastern coast of the Korean Peninsula — a reminder to Kim Jong-un that they have the ability to target his regime any time they wish.
This latest military drill in the region carries with it a heightened sense of tension in light of words issued by the man in charge of U.S. forces on the Korean Peninsula. In a statement of his own, General Vincent Brooks reminded all that the U.S. and North Korea are still technically in a state of war and that at any time this war could once again go live:
“Self-restraint, which is a choice, is all that separates armistice and war. As this Alliance missile live fire shows, we are able to change our choice when so ordered by our Alliance national leaders. It would be a grave mistake for anyone to believe anything to the contrary.”
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