North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un is lucky to be alive, according to U.S. military officials who say that they had the communist leader in their crosshairs while he oversaw a missile launch earlier this month, Business Insider reported.
According to Business Insider, the U.S. military and intelligence personnel watched Kim Jong Un stroll around the launch pad of the Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile the nation tested July 4. An unnamed U.S. government source confirmed to The Diplomat’s Ankit Panda that the U.S. observed Kim and the missile launch for 70 minutes.
Kim called the missile’s July 4 launch test a “gift” to the “American bastards” as the U.S. celebrated Independence Day.
The following day, Business Insider reported, U.S. and South Korean forces revealed to the North Koreans that they had monitored Kim and the missile, then jointly launched a precision guided missile that South Korean President Moon Jae-in said was meant to make “more than statements.”
Rodger Baker, the lead Asia Pacific and South Asia analyst at geopolitical consulting firm Stratfor, told Business Insider that, while refraining from striking before the missile launch is standard, the important part of this strategy was to send a message.
“The unusual aspect may be saying they were watching, or at least allowing that to leak,” Baker told the outlet.
The message is loud and clear, according to Baker, who said that the U.S. is telling North Korea there’s “no need to continue” the missile program, but that “if the program is continued” the U.S. has shown it’s willing and capable to “strike it and Kim.”
Not striking falls in line with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s desire “to bring Kim Jong Un to his senses, not his knees.”
Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, commander of American forces in Seoul, said shortly after the July 4 missile test that all that’s holding the U.S. back from breaking the 1953 cease-fire with North Korea is “self-restraint.” Brooks also used the joint U.S./South Korean precision missile test as a warning to Kim.
Despite consistent warnings from the U.S., United Nations, and even China, North Korea has declared that it will continue advancing its nuclear missile program. The U.S. has also indicated that it will not back down, suggesting that a continuation of war with North Korea could be on the horizon.