August 26, 2019 11:05
North Korea test-fired two missiles from a massive multiple rocket launcher on Saturday, putting weakened defense cooperation between the U.S., South Korea and Japan to the test.
Washington, Seoul and Tokyo practically raced each other to report the latest developments, raising doubts over the accuracy of accounts given by each side.
U.S. President Donald Trump once again made comments that appeared to condone the North's provocations by claiming he has a "good relationship" with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
It was North Korea's first provocation since South Korea scrapped a military intelligence-sharing pact with Japan last Thursday and came after Kim promised Trump in a recent letter that he would stop test-firing missiles if joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises end.
Japan was first to announce the provocation at 7:10 a.m. on Saturday, about half an hour ahead South Korea. After the North's last six missile tests since July 25, the South had been the first to report them. One diplomatic source said, "Japan appears to be flaunting its independent intelligence capabilities."
There were slight differences in assessment as Seoul said the North launched an "unidentified projectile," while Japan said it "appears to be a ballistic missile." The varying assessments highlighted the fissure in intelligence-sharing.
Some pundits fear that the North's provocation was aimed at testing the responses of the U.S., South Korea and Japan after the pact was scrapped and drive a further wedge between their alliance.
Cheong Wa Dae downplayed the value of the pact and said Japan has provided "not even one significant piece of information" since President Moon Jae-in took office in May of 2017.
Trump dismissed the entire test as he departed for the G7 Summit in France. "He hasn't been doing nuclear testing. He has done short range, much more standard missiles. A lot of people are testing those missiles, not just him... We're in the world of missiles... whether you like it or not," he said. But Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe condemned North Korea's provocation saying it "violates UN Security Council resolutions."
The U.S. president also said he "will see what happens with South Korea" following the scrapping of the intelligence-sharing pact, but other U.S. officials voiced concerns that the U.S.-South Korea alliance could be threatened if the trilateral alliance is shaken, which would only benefit North Korea and China.
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