On the morning of April 5, North Korea fired a ballistic missile off its east coast. The missile, which was launched from the port city of Shinpo, Hamgyong-namdo, flew about 60 kilometers (about 4 miles) and plunged into the North’s eastern waters. The projectile is likely to be the “Pukguksong-2,” an intermediate-range ballistic missile that Pyongyang successfully launched in February. Although it was a relatively low level of provocation, North Korea’s April 5 launch of a ballistic missile draws attention because it came just one day ahead of the U.S.-China presidential summit.
As the Rodong Sinmun, the North’s state-controlled newspaper, stated in an editorial, “The U.S. does not speak the same language as us at all. Subjugating it by military force is the only option,” the message from Pyongyang as it showcases its missile technology is clear – before the Trump-Xi discussion of North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, the isolated regime is insisting that Washington and Beijing should not bargain over it.
Meanwhile, the Trump administration has sent tougher messages to the rogue government, and U.S. President Donald Trump has increased pressure on China to rein in its Communist ally. On April 4, ahead of the Trump-Xi meeting, Mr. Trump indicated that the issue of North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs would be discussed with Chinese President Xi Jinping. “We're going to talk about a lot of things, including, of course, North Korea," Trump said. "And that's really a humanity problem." It was the first time he had addressed the North Korea problem as an agenda item for the Trump-Xi summit.
Trump has also made it clear that he will use China’s trade surplus with the U.S. – almost $500 billion last year – as leverage at the meeting, and he even hinted at military action against the North to curb its nuclear and missile threats. The White House’s warning to China, “The clock has now run out,” which was given as a kind of ultimatum at a press briefing prior to the Trump-Xi meeting, is in line with that outlook. It indicates U.S. willingness to take unilateral action on the regime in Pyongyang if Beijing does not change its position at the summit meeting.
With the diplomatic encounter between the leaders of the two countries came a significant turning point for the Korean Peninsula. Although the Trump White House had mentioned “all options” which refers to military action, Kim Jong Un’s regime still rattled the region with a “trial balloon” missile launch. Whether they want it or not, the North’s recent missile test may be a precursor to military confrontation, and we all must remember that we cannot afford internal conflicts and divisions in front of an enemy.