U.S. President Donald Trump said Thursday that Washington is monitoring North Korea’s latest missile launches “very seriously,” adding that he doesn’t think that the regime is ready to negotiate. The U.S. Justice Department has also announced that it seized and started procedures to take possession of North Korea’s freighter suspected of being used to illegally ship coal in violation of U.N. sanctions. Pyongyang’s state media reported that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un noted “genuine peace and security of the country are guaranteed only by the strong physical force” after observing the test launches.
Washington’s tone toward North Korea’s provocations is apparently getting tougher. Though President Trump has left the door open for dialogue by commenting that the projectiles were small and short in range, he also made it clear that the United States would not sit idle. This can be seen in a way that the Justice Department made the announcement about the seizure of a North Korean ship in a few hours after Pyongyang test fired missiles and the Pentagon characterized the projectiles as “ballistic missiles.”
Such a shift in tone also seems to be based on Washington’s reflection that its easygoing attitude shown when the North first launched missiles rather encouraged the regime to carry out yet another provocation. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had drawn criticism for his comment that North Korea’s test didn’t end the testing moratorium since it wasn’t an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). This shows the United States has belatedly realized a need to prevent the communist nation from resorting to its signature brinkmanship tactic once again.
Still, Seoul seems to be busy trying to appease the North. South Korea’s military has been reluctant to assess Pyongyang’s projectiles as “ballistic missiles,” arousing suspicion that the government tries to ignore North Korea’s acts that clearly violate the U.N. Security Council resolutions. The ruling party has even supported the idea of providing food aid to the regime. Despite mounting calls for a cautious approach within the government, the Democratic Party’s new floor leader insisted that humanitarian aid should be given immediately.
North Korea’s missiles, even short-range ones, are a realistic threat to people in South Korea. Yet, the government is thinking of how to continue to support the rogue regime, not saying a word about its latest provocations, apparently fooled around by the North which has strongly called for the two Koreas to not allow foreign powers to intervene in affairs on the Korean peninsula. What’s more, Seoul’s low profile will not stop the North from firing missiles, but further incite the regime to be bolder and militarily adventuristic.