North Korea reveals Japan missile was first step in 'Pacific operation'
Have tensions on the Korean peninsula finally reached breaking point?
For months now relations between the United States and North Korea have been fraught; characterised by bombastic declarations, militaristic rhetoric and provocation that have left observers around the world looking on in dismay.
North Korea, defiant and unwilling to acquiesce to the wants of the Trump administration, has continued a missile testing programme despite sanctions and widespread condemnation from countries and international bodies, purportedly with the intention on developing warheads with the capability of reaching the United States of America.
Pyongyang has reacted with fury to President Trump's attempts to temper their military ambitions, while the latter has been left largely frustrated by what he perceives as inaction on the part of China. Sanctions placed on the North appear to have had little practical effect, and a solution to the intensifying tension on the Korean peninsula appears, regrettably, as far away as ever.
The United States, its ally South Korea, and the North appear to be tiptoeing ever closer to a precipice from which a fall, one feels sure, would hold disastrous consequences for the international community.
It was with dismay, then, that onlookers learned of North Korea's testing of a missile that flew over Japan yesterday, a move which was described by Tokyo as an "unprecedented, serious and grave threat". Mere hours later, South Korea dropped eight MK-84 bombs close to the country's border with North Korea in a show of military strength. The Independent says that President Moon Jae-In "ordered the strike, by four F-15K fighter-bombers, at a firing range in the country's east to 'display a strong capability to punish' North Korea if it were to attack."
Now, news has emanated from the North that makes for even graver reading. The BBC, among others, reports that North Korea has described its missile firing over Japan yesterday as "the first step" of further military action in the pacific.
The launch, said state media, was "the first step of the military operation of the (North Korean military) in the Pacific and a meaningful prelude to containing Guam".
The BBC says that Russia and China believe that current US military operations in the region have played a part in the North's missile launch, urging negotiations on both sides.
It is believed that Kim Jong-un has ordered further missile drills in the region.
Earlier this summer, President Trump threatened "fire and fury" if North Korea did not temper its military ambitions and provocations, while Pyongyang has previously said that it could bomb the US territory of Guam; it is believed that the missile that was fired over Japan due to its path toward the island.
In a statement released by the White House President Trump said that the global community had "received North Korea's latest message loud and clear".
"This regime has signalled its contempt for its neighbours, for all members of the United Nations, and for minimum standards of acceptable international behaviour.
"Threatening and destabilising actions only increase the North Korean regime's isolation in the region and among all nations of the world. All options are on the table."
The UN Security Council has also moved to condemn North Korea's actions, describing the missile launch as "outrageous".
Though world leaders and observers will be hoping that a diplomatic solution could yet be found to the fraught condition of the Korean peninsula, threats like President Trump's of "fire and fury" hardly inspires confidence.