“I assume they don’t have a strategy yet, so Trump with Abe by his side was properly taciturn, surprisingly so,” said Jeffrey A. Bader, an Asia scholar at the Brookings Institution who served as President Barack Obama ‘s Asia adviser. “But that can’t hold. At some point you need to articulate a strategy.”
The tempered response may also have reflected the fact that the missile launched on Sunday by North Korea was either a medium- or an intermediate-range missile, according to the American military, and not an intercontinental missile, or ICBM, capable of reaching the United States.
The missile flew 310 miles before dropping harmlessly into the Sea of Japan, according to the South Korean military, which identified it as an intermediate-range Musudan. North Korea regularly tests missiles in violation of United Nations resolutions, including roughly two dozen last year, but has boasted that it could test an ICBM “anytime and anywhere.” The kind tested on Sunday poses a potential threat to American allies in Japan and South Korea and American forces in the Pacific, but could not strike the United States.
“It’s yet unclear what missile was tested,” said Thomas Karako, a missile expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “What is certain is that North Korea has now begun 2017 by continuing the aggressive pace of missile testing they’ve shown in recent years.”
North Korea challenged Mr. Obama early in his tenure, too, with an underground nuclear blast four months after he took office. The effect was to harden Mr. Obama’s attitude toward North Korea for the rest of his presidency, according to former aides. Rather than try to negotiate, as both Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush did, Mr. Obama focused on tightening international sanctions and bolstering alliances with Japan and South Korea.
“But we’re going to be sending another signal very soon, and that signal is when we begin a great rebuilding of the armed forces of the United States,” he said, also on “Face the Nation.” “President Trump is going to go to Congress and ask them to invest in our military so once again we will have unquestioned military strength beyond anything anybody can imagine.”