Intelligence and Pentagon officials are on high alert amid fears that North Korea is planning it’s biggest ever missile test to coincide with President Donald Trump’s visit to South Korea Tuesday. Foreign policy analysts say if North Korea goes through with a launch during the president’s visit, U.S. military retaliation is assured.
Reports of likely provocation from North Korea come after an extended period of relative silence from North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un following a Sept. 15 launch. But a launch test while Trump is visiting the Korean Peninsula, which is currently surrounded by U.S. battleships and soldiers, would be the Hermit Kingdom’s biggest show of belligerence yet.
To the dismay of some diplomacy experts, the president has made no secret that he views North Korea as an international menace which he wants to deal with militarily should the opportunity present. Trump has in recent months ratcheted up rhetoric against North Korea, calling Jong-un “rocket man” earlier this year and classifying the country’s quest to become a world nuclear power a “suicide mission.” In August, the president vowed that any North Korean actions which endanger American lives will be met with “fire and fury.”
On Monday, Trump met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to discuss the sale of U.S. military equipment the president said will help bolster international protection agains North Korean aggression. Abe, Trump said after the meeting has agreed “to purchase massive amounts of military equipment” that could be used to shoot down long range missiles fired in the region.
Also on Monday, South Korean officials announced new economic sanctions against 18 North Koreans with ties to the country’s nuclear program.
As Reuters reported:
All 18 individuals on which the South Korean sanctions were imposed were directly affiliated to North Korean banks, according to an official government announcement by the finance minister uploaded on the Interior Ministry’s website.
“They are all people at North Korean financial institutions that have already been sanctioned by the United Nations,” a government official directly involved in the sanction development process told Reuters. The official asked for anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to media.
“They’re high-ranking employees who have been linked to North Korea’s nuclear and missile development program as well as the North’s foreign exchange procurement efforts.”
The move is seen by many international watchers as likely to bolster North Korea’s desire to send a message with a missile launch during Trump’s visit.
If such a launch does occur while Trump is in South Korea, the president’s proximity to the danger could play a huge mental role in any future decisions he makes about U.S. military maneuvers in the region. During recent North Korean missile experiments, the sound of air raid sirens blaring in nations throughout the Pacific has become a frequent reminder of the growing nuclear threat.
Should Trump decide U.S. military intervention is warranted in the region, the U.S. military-industrial complex is certainly ready to react. Last week, the Pentagon briefed lawmakers on the military’s most likely course of action, including a note that U.S. ground forces would be needed in the country to secure North Korean nuclear sites following an attack.