Pyongyang’s latest missile launch is a potent reminder that little time is left to slow the North’s weapons programme. Talks are unpalatable – but necessary

The prospect of sitting down to hamburgers with Kim Jong-un, as aired by Donald Trump, is not appetising. But North Korea’s latest missile launch should remind the United States that it can’t wait for him to eat humble pie, nor expect China to take his lunch away.

Pyongyang’s bold claims of a successful intercontinental ballistic missile test don’t have to be absolutely accurate to be alarming. The US military has suggested it was an intermediate-range missile, though others believe it was an ICBM. It was not “capable of hitting anywhere in the world”, but at least one analyst judged it capable of reaching Alaska. It demonstrates that North Korea’s programme is gathering pace, even if important technical challenges remain. Pyongyang has now launched more major missiles in the last three years than in the previous three decades. Mr Trump had already warned that “patience is over”; the Obama administration’s waiting game failed to hold back the grains in the hourglass.

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