- North Korea fired off two missiles on Wednesday afternoon in what experts considered a warning shot toward President Donald Trump.
- Trump’s major success in North Korea policy has been getting Kim Jong Un to halt missile tests, but that may be unraveling.
- Responding to the latest missile launches, Trump hinted that relations might not continue on their rosy path.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
North Korea launched two missiles Wednesday afternoon in what experts considered a warning shot toward President Donald Trump, and Trump’s response indicates his signature peace drive could once again turn ugly.
On Thursday, South Korea’s defense ministry said North Korea had fired two new types of missiles, which flew about 370 miles and landed in the Sea of Japan.
The missiles, most likely a clone of a Russian system, didn’t fly over Japan, didn’t cause an international crisis, and didn’t prompt an emergency meeting of the UN. But they dealt a serious blow to Trump, whose main achievement on North Korea has been a freeze of long-range missile testing.
While the missiles North Korea launched Wednesday weren’t long-range, they were new missiles tested in protest and perhaps to demand Trump’s attention. It’s unclear whether the new missiles were nuclear-capable, but a submarine North Korean leader Kim Jong Un toured this week certainly was.
A return to fire and fury?
Trump and Kim spent all of 2017 at each other’s throats, trading threats of mutual nuclear destruction, culminating in Trump threatening to “totally destroy” the country and North Korea warning it would fire missiles toward US bases in Guam and detonate a nuclear warhead over the Pacific Ocean.
The two made a 180-degree turn in 2018, when Trump took the unprecedented step of meeting in person with Kim, who promised to no longer test long-range missiles or nuclear weapons.
On Thursday night, calling in to Sean Hannity’s show on Fox News, Trump responded to the recent launches by downplaying their significance while suggesting that the US and North Korea could return to the dark days of “fire and fury.”
“I’m actually getting along very well with him, but we’ll see what happens,” Trump said of Kim. “They haven’t done nuclear testing. They really haven’t tested to missiles other than, you know, smaller ones, which is something that lots test.”
Trump is correct that many countries test missiles, but Kim’s latest test did violate UN resolutions. Trump frequently forgives North Korea’s abysmal human-rights record and once said the US would not spy on Kim while he was in charge.
But on Thursday he signaled his patience might be wearing thin.
“I think with North Korea, we have been doing very well here, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to continue,” he added.
A cry for help or drumbeats of war?
Experts told Business Insider that North Korea’s latest test served as a protest meant to get the president’s attention while negotiations had stalled and there had been almost no progress.
North Korea hasn’t disarmed in the least. Despite three blockbuster meetings between the Trump and Kim, neither side can even agree on a basic framework, and North Korea refuses to even provide information on its nuclear program.
North Korean propaganda, once welcoming to the US president, has switched back to blasting the US and South Korea as “warmongers.”
Meanwhile, Trump has consistently stuck his neck out and vouched for Kim.
But Trump’s response to the latest launches suggest that with missiles flying again, Washington and Pyongyang could once more be in each other’s crosshairs.