North Korea appears to have tested a new, precision-guided SCUD missile—and claims to have landed the projectile in a place that could inflame Japanese-South Korean relations.
To begin: “On Monday, North Korea launched what the United States, South Korea, and Japan assessed to be a short-range ballistic missile — likely one of its Scuds,” The Diplomat’s Ankit Panda reported based on preliminary announcements from North Korea, South Korea’s military and U.S. Pacific Command. “The missile was launched from Wonsan and flew for 450 kilometers on a eastward trajectory, landing in the Sea of Japan…According to the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff, the missile landed 450 kilometers from its point-of-launch in Wonsan, North Korea. North Korea claimed that the missile hit its ‘planned target point with [a] deviation of seven meters.’”
More on the alleged precision: The North says it fired its missile into a disputed area known as Dokdo in South Korea and Takeshima in Japan. “The Dokdo/Takeshima dispute continues to be a sore spot in relations between Seoul and Tokyo, both of whom claim sovereignty over the features,” Panda writes, zeroing in on a point first made by @armscontrolwonk Jeffrey Lewis.
Why this matters: “There’s good reason to think that North Korea may have been deliberately attempting to prod this sore point between two U.S. allies,” adds Panda.
The bigger picture take: “Pyongyang is looking to fire missiles with less warning and lead-up time, smaller satellite signatures to avoid preemptive detection, and from anywhere in the country,” Panda reported separately.
The Wall Street Journal echoed that sentiment. How they phrased it: Monday’s test illustrated “a speeded-up launch process and a precision-control guidance system that can zero in within 23 feet of a target…Tuesday’s claim follows the launch of what analysts believe is North Korea’s longest-range functioning missile and the test-firing last week of a solid-fueled missile that requires virtually no preparation time before launch.”
What’s not new: Kim Jong Un likes to watch launches from posh places, notes Dave Schmerler of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies—providing a geolocated overview of the launch site, the product of weeks of ongoing immersion in open-source imagery from Pyongyang launches.
What’s to be done? Pressure China, if you’re U.S. President Donald Trump. Tweeted Trump this morning, “North Korea has shown great disrespect for their neighbor, China, by shooting off yet another ballistic missile…but China is trying hard!”
Worth noting: “[T]his test did come shortly after news of the United States deploying a third Nimitz-class supercarrier to the Pacific,” Panda adds.
The USS Nimitz (CVN-68) will join the the USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) and the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76). More on that from Voice of America, here.
And the South Korean military is in hot water with the new president after “four more launchers for the controversial U.S. THAAD anti-missile system had been brought into the country” without his knowledge, Reuters reports this morning. In response, President Moon Jae-in has “called for a parliamentary review of the system.” A bit more on the nervous mood around Seoul, here.
Meanwhile, the U.S. has a test of its own today: it will “for the first time test its ability to shoot down an intercontinental ballistic missile using its own upgraded long-range interceptor missile,” CNN reports.
From Defense One
Russian Lawmaker: We Would Use Nukes if US or NATO Enters Crimea // Patrick Tucker: The Western alliance’s troop buildup in Eastern Europe has Moscow spooked.
The Longest War Fades Even at NATO // Gayle Tzemach Lemmon: Cameras focused on Trump, but war commanders in Afghanistan wanted more troops from NATO, not promises.
Pentagon Accelerates Work on Multi-Warhead Interceptor // Patrick Tucker: Officials won’t say it’s because of North Korea. But experts say Pyongyang’s planned ICBMs will almost certainly release decoys to cloak their nukes.
What Wounded Veterans Need: Medical Marijuana // Joe Plenzler and Lou Celli: The American Legion, representing millions of wartime vets, calls on Trump to loosen federal restrictions on medical marijuana research to help those suffering from PTSD, TBI, opioid abuse, and more.
Welcome to Tuesday’s edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. #OTD1868: The leader of the Grand Army of the Republic orders the first Memorial Day. Got tips? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. (And if you’re reading this on our website, consider subscribing. It’s free.)
Three days that shook trans-Atlantic ties. “Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, Europe’s most influential leader, has concluded, after three days of trans-Atlantic meetings, that the United States of President Trump is not the reliable partner her country and the Continent have automatically depended on in the past,” writes the New York Times. That is “a potentially seismic shift” that comes as “Germany is becoming an increasingly dominant power in a partnership with France.”
White House officials described it a bit differently, saying that European nations had received Trump’s messages that other NATO members should bear more of the expense of their defense, and that the United States would be working to improve its position in trade deals.
Former U.S. ambassador Ivo Daalder’s take: “This is ‘America first’ — a policy focused on narrow self-interest — and abandons the idea that the best way to enhance our security and prosperity is by having strong allies and leading globally in pursuit of common values and interests.” Read on, here.
Trump and his staff returned home to a welter of Russia-related news, including reports that senior adviser/son-in-law Jared Kushner asked a startled Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak about using his embassy’s secure communications gear to establish a secret connection with Moscow.
That meeting, undisclosed until the Washington Post reported it, was one of several unreported Kushner-Russian meetings that came to light over the past few days. Reuters, here.
Meanwhile, the Senate Intelligence Committee has asked the Trump campaign to hand over documents, emails and phone records going back to June 2015, the Post reports. Trump’s campaign, a former senior aide told Politico, “didn’t do much in the way of establishing a backup plan to preserve those digital records.” That’s an omission that could mean jail time for someone: “Any failure to keep track of emails, messages and other records could expose them to criminal charges down the line.”
Trump’s response: the media’s making it all up.
The battle for Marawi. A particularly bloody fight against the ISIS affiliates of the Maute group in the Philippines has entered its eighth day. The situation on the ground involves “security forces using armored vehicles and firing rockets from helicopters” in the city of Marawi (map here), on Mindanao Island, Reuters reports. “The government says it is close to retaking Marawi from the Islamic State-linked Maute group, which seized parts of the city after a failed attempt by security forces to capture Isnilon Hapilon, the militants’ so-called emir of Southeast Asia. As helicopters circled the lakeside city where smoke billowed out of some buildings, troops cleared rebel positions amid explosions and automatic gunfire, moving house by house and street by street.”
So far, “More than 100 people have been killed, most of them militants, according to the military, and most of the city’s residents have fled,” Reuters writes. “Nearly 85,000 displaced people are staying in 38 shelter areas outside Marawi.” Read the rest, here.
For what it’s worth: Here’s a look at ISIS-linked groups in the Philippines (Reuters lists four, with their area of operations).
Violence during Ramadan. A car bomb attack in Baghdad marks at least the fifth attack during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which began on Friday and extends through June 24.
The first big attack occurred on Friday when a bus full of Christians was attacked by gunmen in Egypt, killing 28. The attack was later claimed by ISIS, and Egypt responded by bombing militant positions reportedly on the border with Libya, according to CNN.
The second Ramadan attack occurred the following day in Afghanistan when “At least 18 people, mostly civilians, were killed when a suicide car bomber targeted a convoy of provincial security forces” in Khost province. The Taliban claimed responsibility for that one, according to al-Jazeera. More from the BBC.
Attack #3 killed three women and wounded more than a dozen others in Iraq on Sunday when a suicide bomber blew himself up in central Baqubah.
And that brings us to attacks four and five, when “A massive bombing by the Islamic State group outside a popular ice cream shop in central Baghdad and a rush hour car bomb in another downtown area killed at least 31 people on Tuesday,” ABC News reports on both, here.
Back stateside, what’s the bigger threat—ISIS or “hate-motivated terror attacks”? It looks like the latter, writes the folks at the Soufan Group. “Despite the level of attention given to Islamic State-related terror threats, in the U.S., other forms of hate-motivated terror attacks and crime represent a more immediate threat. Indeed, two recent attacks demonstrate just how skewed public perceptions and reactions are to domestic terrorism. The U.S. has long struggled with racism and violent white supremacy, along with anti-government extremists euphemistically called ‘militia’ groups rather than terrorist groups. While the overwhelming focus of counterterrorism efforts in the U.S. is on preventing attacks directed or inspired by groups such as the Islamic State, the greater day-to-day criminal and terror threats in the country come from violent domestic racists.” Read on, here.
ICYMI: the past week saw a new U.S. ROTC officer stabbed to death at the University of Maryland, and then two men killed in Portland, Oregon, after they tried to stop a man from harassing two Muslim women on a train.