The Trump administration on Tuesday confirmed North Korea’s claim that it had launched an intercontinental ballistic missile, but it told Pyongyang that the United States would use “the full range of capabilities at our disposal against the growing threat.”
The administration followed up that warning with a joint military exercise in which United States and South Korean forces fired missiles in the waters along the Peninsula’s east coast as a show of power.
North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, said the North’s missile launch earlier in the day was a milestone in its efforts to build nuclear weapons capable of hitting the American mainland.
On Wednesday morning, he taunted the United States, saying the launch was a Fourth of July “gift” to the Trump administration.
“We should send them gifts once in a while to help break their boredom,” he said, according to the North Korean state-run news agency.
The North Korean missile departed the Banghyon airfield in the northwestern town of Kusong and flew 578 miles before landing in the sea between North Korea and Japan, the South Korean military said in a statement. The American military said it remained aloft for 37 minutes.
The Japanese government said the missile landed in its so-called exclusive economic zone off its western coast. Under a series of United Nations Security Council resolutions, North Korea is prohibited from developing or testing ballistic missiles.
While the North has made significant progress in its weapons programs, experts believe it cannot make nuclear warheads small enough to be mounted on ICBMs. Still, American policy makers have long seen just the development of an ICBM as a critical threshold the North should not be allowed to cross.