The United States and South Korea began large-scale air-defense exercises on Monday, ignoring pleas from Russia and China to call off the annual military drills in hopes that, in exchange, North Korea would slow its weapons programs. The decision signaled that the U.S. and its regional allies, including South Korea and Japan, are losing faith in the prospects for negotiations with the regime in Pyongyang.
“People may ask why we do not engage with North Korea. We have been engaging with North Korea for more than 20 years,” a Japanese government official told Yahoo News at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs headquarters in Kasumigaseki, Tokyo. “Our sincere will for dialogue with North Korea was betrayed, simply put.”
North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) last week that flew higher and farther than any previous launches, before landing in the sea within 200 nautical miles of Japan’s coast. The launch defied international pressure for the nation to halt testing of offensive weapons.
The Kim Jong Un regime said the new Hwasong-15 ICBM reached an altitude of about 2,780 miles and traveled 590 miles during its 53-minute flight. U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis said that Pyongyang was determined to build missiles that could “threaten everywhere in the world, basically.”
The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the state-run news agency for North Korea, claimed the “breakthrough” ICBM was robust enough to withstand reentering the atmosphere with a warhead and could reach the U.S. mainland.
The launch was North Korea’s first since President Trump put the country back on a list of state sponsors of terror on Nov. 20. It ended the fragile hope that stronger oil sanctions against North Korea would dissuade it from testing more ballistic missiles. The regime’s last ballistic missile exercise before last Tuesday took place on Sept. 15.
North Korea has tested ballistic missiles dozens of times over the past two years, rapidly increasing their reach — and altitude, which creates a lofted trajectory that’s more difficult to intercept.
The country has carried out six nuclear tests since October 2006. The government said the fifth test, on Sept. 9, 2016, was its first successful test explosion of a nuclear warhead – i.e., a bomb that could be delivered by a missile. After the sixth test, on Sept. 3, 2017, Pyongyang announced that it had successfully detonated a hydrogen bomb with an estimated yield of 160 kilotons, 10 times…