N Korea test-fires missile, Abe condemns

PYONGYANG, Feb 12: North Korea appeared to fire a ballistic missile early Sunday in what would be its first such test of the year and an implicit challenge to US President Donald Trump, who stood with the Japanese leader as Shinzo Abe called the move ‘intolerable.’
There was no immediate confirmation from the North, which had recently warned it was ready to test its first intercontinental ballistic missile. The US Strategic Command said it detected and tracked what it assessed to be a medium- or intermediate-range ballistic missile.
North Korean media are often slow to announce such launches, if they announce them at all. As of Sunday afternoon, there had been no official announcement and most North Koreans went about their day with no inkling that the launch was major international news.
The reports of the launch came as Trump was hosting Prime Minister Abe and just days before the North is to mark the birthday of leader Kim Jong Un’s late father, Kim Jong Il.
Appearing with Trump at a news conference at the president’s south Florida estate, Abe condemned the missile launch as ‘absolutely intolerable.’
Abe read a brief statement in which he called on the North to comply fully with relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions. He said Trump had assured him of US support and that Trump’s presence showed the president’s determination and commitment.
Trump followed Abe with even fewer words, saying in part: “I just want everybody to understand and fully know that the United States of America stands behind Japan, its great ally, 100 percent.”
South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff said in a statement that the missile was fired from around Banghyon, North Pyongan Province, which is where South Korean officials have said the North test-launched its powerful midrange Musudan missile on Oct. 15 and 20.
The military in Seoul said that the missile flew about 500 kilometers. But South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported that while determinations were still being made, it was not believed to be an intercontinental ballistic missile.
The missile splashed down into the sea between the Korean Peninsula and Japan, according to the US Strategic Command. Japanese chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters that the missile did not hit Japanese territorial seas.
The North conducted two nuclear tests and a slew of rocket launches last year in continued efforts to expand its nuclear weapons and missile programs. Kim Jong Un said in his New Year’s address that the country had reached the final stages of readiness to test an ICBM, which would be a major step forward in its efforts to build a credible nuclear threat to the United States.

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