And would Trump launch a military attack in response?
Donald Trump got a few laughs when he dubbed North Korean leader Kim Jong-un “little rocket man” after the lyrics of Elton John’s hit 1970s song. But as the US president knows, Kim’s fuse isn’t burning out. In fact, the buzz among top Korea analysts is that Pyongyang is lighting the way for at least one more long-range missile test.
The aim would be to show the US, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the regime has mastered the intricacies of nuclear warhead miniaturization, re-entry and range. But some analysts warn that a misreading by Washington of such a test could trigger war.
Fueling speculation that a big demonstration may be due is the fact that North Korea hasn’t sent anything aloft for more than eight weeks – since its Hwasong-12 intermediate range ballistic missile launch on September 15 to be exact.
Ralph Cossa, president of the Pacific Forum at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), told United Press International on Thursday that North Korea might undertake another missile test to convince the US that it can hit its furthest shores — not just the West Coast or Alaska.
“Once they are convinced that we are convinced that they’re capable of hitting Washington and New York they will then put their nuclear capabilities in their pocket, and be very agreeable to talking about a freeze,” Cossa said. “But it won’t be a freeze for a freeze, as China and others have recommended, it will be a freeze for aid or a lifting of sanctions.”
Cossa’s assessment was supported a few days earlier by an analysis on 38 North by veteran Korea watcher Robert Carlin. Carlin argues that Pyongyang, euphoric over its two successful long-range missile launches in July, may think its strategic position vs. the US to now be unassailable. This might convince the regime to step back from the brink of nuclear war and settle for “practical equilibrium” with the US.
One more fatal step?