Key U.S. policy-makers including national security, military and diplomatic officials are meeting July 4 for an unplanned session to discuss the successful test of a two-stage intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) by North Korea. Pyongyang announced that it had achieved its goal of demonstrably testing an ICBM and data analysts confirmed that the North Korean assertion is indeed accurate. This puts Pyongyang one step closer to achieving its ambition of fielding a credible long-range nuclear delivery system. Although this is the most successful extended-range missile test so far for North Korea, the dream of a deployable nuclear weapon able to strike the continental United States is certainly not yet realized.
There are a number of questions that must now be considered. First, whether this test gives Pyongyang enough security to announce a moratorium on testing in an attempt to play the tense tense situation involving the United States, South Korea, China and Japan to its advantage in an effort to gain concessions. Second, whether North Korea will simply continue as planned until it achieves its goal. Third, whether the United States will continue to pursue diplomatic efforts against North Korea, including sanctions and continuing efforts to get China to more aggressively curtail Pyongyang's ambitions. Finally, as today's planning session suggests, the United States is considering practical options for preventing North Korea from achieving its nuclear ambitions. According to a White House spokesman, U.S. President Donald Trump will authorize a "measured response" against any ICBM test that is proved. This might include a military uplift to the region, but the current administration has already said it will take affirmative action to prevent Pyongyang from fielding a credible nuclear deterrent.