N Korea test-fires ballistic missile into sea


SEOUL: World leaders responded on Wednesday to the latest missile launch by North Korea, as US, Japanese and South Korean officials confirmed the hermit kingdom had fired a ballistic missile into the East Sea.
The missile launch came just days before US President Donald Trumpand Chinese President Xi Jinping were expected to discuss Pyongyang’s nuclear programme on Thursday and Friday in Florida.
On Wednesday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Japan “strongly condemns” the missile launch.
North Korea test-fired a ballistic missile into the sea off its east coast on Wednesday, South Korea’s military said, ahead of a summit between US and Chinese leaders who are set to discuss Pyongyang’s increasingly defiant arms programme.
The missile flew about 60 km from its launch site at Sinpo, a port city on North Korea’s east coast, the South Korean Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement. Sinpo is home to a North Korean submarine base.
“The launch took place possibly in consideration of the US-China summit, while at the same time it was to check its missile capability,” a South Korean official said about the military’s initial assessment of the launch. The missile was fired at a high angle and reached an altitude of 189 km, the official said.
Any launch of objects using ballistic missile technology is a violation of UN Security Council resolutions. The North has defied the ban, saying it infringes on its sovereign rights to self-defence and the pursuit of space exploration.
Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga described the launch as “extremely problematic” and said Tokyo had lodged a strong protest.
South Korea’s foreign ministry also condemned the launch as a blunt challenge to a series of UN Security Council resolutions targeting North Korea’s nuclear and missile programme.
Seoul called a National Security Council meeting and vowed to respond strongly in case of further provocations.
In a terse statement, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said: “The United States has spoken enough about North Korea. We have no further comment.”
Trump wants China to do more to exert its economic influence over unpredictable Pyongyang to restrain its nuclear and missile programmes.
China has denied it has any outsized influence on Pyongyang and Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying ruled out the chance of a link between the launch and the summit, saying, “I can’t see any certain connection between these two things.”
Ahead of the US-China summit in Florida, Trump had threatened to use crucial trade ties with China to pressure Beijing into more action on North Korea.
A senior US White House official said Trump wanted to work with China and described the discussions over North Korea as a test for the US-Chinese relationship.
North Korea could choose to continue with missile-related activities through next week, when the isolated and impoverished country celebrates the 105th anniversary of the birth of the state’s founder, Kim Il Sung.
It has used the anniversary in previous years to test-fire the intermediate-range Musudan ballistic missile and to launch long-range rockets to try to put satellites into orbit. — Reuters