On Tuesday, the North abandoned that restraint, lobbing an intermediate-range ballistic missile at a normal angle and sending it over Hokkaido, into a spot in the Western Pacific almost 1,700 miles away. In doing so, Mr. Kim may have been trying to show that he can hit a faraway target, for the first time conducting a more realistic test of the type of missile he had threatened to use to strike near the American territory of Guam.
Indeed, Mr. Kim warned that his government could conduct more missile tests in the Pacific, North Korea’s state-run news media reported on Wednesday.
While attending the launching of the missile, a Hwasong-12, on Tuesday, Mr. Kim said North Korea needed to conduct “more ballistic rocket launching drills with the Pacific as a target in the future,” according to the North’s official Korean Central News Agency. Mr. Kim called the test on Tuesday “a meaningful prelude to containing Guam” and “a curtain-raiser” of the North’s “resolute countermeasures against” the joint military exercises that the United States and South Korea began last week.
Mr. Kim added that North Korea would continue to “watch the U.S. demeanors as already declared and decide its future action according to them.” The 11-day military drills by Washington and Seoul, which North Korea has vehemently condemned as a rehearsal for war, are scheduled to end on Thursday, a potential excuse for North Korea to de-escalate.
Because of North Korea’s location — squeezed between China and South Korea, with Japan to the east and southeast and Russia to the northeast — there is essentially no way that the North can test missiles on normal trajectories, as it did Tuesday, without sending them over another nation.
“If the previous launchings were for testing technologies, this one was a realistic demonstration of an intermediate-range ballistic missile capability,”…