U.S. President Donald Trump has reportedly become the first U.S. president to send his congratulations on the birthday of the late North Korean founding leader Kim Il Sung, which falls on April 15. North Korea announced that it test-fired a new tactical-guided weapon and demanded that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo be replaced with someone else in nuclear talks, but the State Department is apparently maintaining a cautious attitude, stressing that it was not a ballistic missile.
“The test, or the launch, depending on how you want to characterize it, was not a ballistic missile,” Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday (local time), officially confirming that the regime conducted a test launch.
“I would say, let us look at the intelligence that we’ve gathered and then formulate what the message is,” he said, adding that he is “not in a rush to judgement.” These remarks indicate that the U.S. government is analyzing data to identify the real intention of North Korea.
Acting Assistant to the Secretary of Defense Charles Summers also said in Thursday’s press briefing, “I’ll emphasize that STRATCOM (U.S. Strategic Command) and NORTHCOM (U.S. Northern Command) have been at normal operations for the last 24 hours.” The Associated Press also reported that the North’s test “didn’t appear to be of a banned mid- or long-range ballistic missile that could scuttle negotiations.”
The State Department has been particularly discreet. Mike Pompeo, who used to actively counter the North’s arguments, remained tight-lipped on Thursday, only putting on a smile when asked by reporters about the North’s intention. The State Department had earlier commented that it “remains ready to engage North Korea in a constructive negotiation,” implying that it has no intention to irritate the regime.
Still, voices of concern are rising that Pyongyang’s expression of dissatisfaction in talks, which is considered a diplomatic discourtesy, may complicate the negotiations which have already lost momentum. In an interview with Voice of America, Mark Fitzpatrick, former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Non-Proliferation at the State Department, called the North’s behaviors insulting, saying that the United States should not be told to designate a specific person in charge of negotiations, especially when the person is a Secretary of State.
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