The U.S. announced it had successfully tested an unarmed intercontinental ballistic missile Wednesday, as hostilities with North Korea continue. The news came after several senior U.S. officials warned Pyongyang that all options were on the table Tuesday, with one Republican senator claiming a military response was “inevitable.”
The Air Force said the test was not a direct response to North Korea’s recent missile test, but was designed to show “that the United States’ nuclear enterprise is safe, secure, effective and ready to be able to deter, detect and defend against attacks on the United States and its allies.”
The ICBM test came after Sen. Lindsey Graham told NBC’s “Today” show that President Donald Trump had told him to his face that “there is a military option to destroy North Korea’s [missile] program and North Korea itself.”
If Graham’s rhetoric was designed to antagonize Pyongyang, then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sought to try and calm rising tensions in the region ahead of a visit to Asia this week where he will meet ministers from North Korea, China, South Korea, and Japan.
“We’re not your enemy, we are not your threat,” Tillerson said. “We do not seek a regime change, we do not seek the collapse of the regime, we do not seek an accelerated reunification of the peninsula, we do not seek an excuse to send our military north of the 38th parallel.”
The perceived threat from North Korea has been taken even more seriously since Friday, when Pyongyang conducted its second ICBM test in the space of a month. Experts suggested this missile could reach as far as New York — though some evidence casts doubt on North Korea’s claims.
A breakdown in relations between Beijing and Washington has further ramped up tension, with Trump accusing President Xi Jinping and his government of not doing enough to combat the threat from North Korea.
Responding to the criticism, state-run Xinhua newspaper said in an editorial Monday: “Trump is quite a personality, and he likes to tweet, but emotional venting cannot become a guiding policy for solving the nuclear issue on the peninsula.”