Excellent response

If, as U.S. officials insist, Thursday’s test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile had nothing to do with events elsewhere in the world, it was a fortuitous coincidence.

On Thursday, North Korea fired two short-range missiles into the sea off its coast. It appears the rockets were a new design.

Just 10 minutes later, the U.S. Air Force sent a much-longer range Minuteman 3 missile soaring through the air from a base in California. Officials insist the launch had nothing to do with North Korea. Intercontinental ballistic missiles are tested four or five times a year and this one was scheduled months ago, they said.

North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un is unhappy about President Donald Trump’s refusal to go along with the game that has been played successfully by Pyongyang for decades. It is to engage in military buildups, suffer for a few months or years from resulting international economic sanctions, then pledge to amend its aggressive ways. Inevitably, Kim and his predecessors have resumed building up their arsenals once pressure from other countries eases.

Things are different now, of course. Kim has both nuclear weapons and long-range missiles to deliver them.

There had been high hopes for an agreement whereby Kim’s regime would scrap its nuclear arms. But, when Trump refused to accept mere promises in return for lifting sanctions on North Korea, that nation’s leader began rattling his saber. Thursday’s rocket tests were part of the process.

But when the U.S. Air Force fired off an ICBM just minutes after the North Korean test, it was a reminder to Kim and his generals that any military action by them will be responded to quickly and with overwhelming military force by the United States. Such admonitions may be helpful in bringing Pyongyang back to the bargaining table.

So, was the ICBM test just a coincidence? Only a few people know the answer. They are unlikely to talk.

Whether planned or not, the U.S. launch was an excellent way of responding to Kim’s bellicosity.