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(7th LD) N. Korea fires ballistic missile into eastern waters

All News 14:38 April 05, 2017

(ATTN: UPDATES with S. Korean military's warning message in paras 11-12)
By Lee Chi-dong

SEOUL, April 5 (Yonhap) -- North Korea launched a ballistic missile Wednesday into the East Sea, South Korea's military said, just two days ahead of summit talks between U.S. President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.

"North Korea fired a ballistic missile into the East Sea from a site in the vicinity of Sinpo, South Hamgyong Province, at around 6:42 a.m.," the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said in a statement. "The flight distance is about 60 kilometers."

The projectile is estimated to be "a type of KN-15 medium-range ballistic missile," also known as Pukguksong-2, and the maximum altitude of its flight was 189km, a senior JCS official later told reporters.

"It's still premature to conclude whether the test-firing was a success or failure," he added. "It was detected by South Korean Navy's Aegis ship operating in the East Sea and the Air Force's ballistic missile warning system."

He said the North seems to have aimed to test its ballistic missile technology and also considered the timing just before the U.S.-China summit.

Citing an initial assessment, the U.S. Pacific Command also said the projectile seems to be a KN-15 ballistic missile fired from a land-based facility.

It flew nine minutes, added the Hawaii-based command.

North Korea fires a medium-range ballistic missile in February in this file photo. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (KCNA-Yonhap)

The South's presidential office convened an emergency National Security Council (NSC) meeting to discuss the provocation, presided over by Kim Kwan-jin, the national security adviser to Acting President Hwang Kyo-han.

While North Korea's state-controlled media remained silent about the latest missile launch, the South Korean government publicly denounced the Kim Jong-un regime, saying such a provocative act is a "blatant" challenge to U.N. resolutions against Pyongyang.

It would only accelerate the collapse of the communist regime, the foreign ministry said, as the unification ministry handling daily inter-Korean affairs urged Pyongyang to refrain from taking actions to destabilize the peninsula.

The South's military warned that it will constantly enhance its "deterrence capability" against the North's nuclear and missile programs.

"(We) gravely warn that North Korea's reckless provocation is a path toward the collapse of its regime," the JCS said in a separate statement. "(We) strongly condemn a series of North Korean provocations threatening the peace and security of the Korean Peninsula and the international community. Our troops maintain a firm posture for an immediate response to any kind of provocation by North Korea."

The North's move came as Trump is scheduled to host the Chinese president at his Florida estate on Thursday and Friday (local time) for their first summit. The North Korea issue will likely be among top agenda items.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Trump warned that the U.S will take unilateral action to get rid of the North's military threats unless China does its part.

"Well if China is not going to solve North Korea, we will. That is all I am telling you," Trump was quoted as saying.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson gave a terse response to the North's latest provocation, saying "the United States has spoken enough about North Korea."

A North Korean ballistic missiles soars to the sky in this file photo. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (KCNA-Yonhap)

Two weeks ago, the North test-fired a missile, which ended in failure. Earlier in March, the North fired four ballistic missiles, three of which fell into the sea near Japan.

In February, it blasted a Pukguksong-2 intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) from a mobile launcher. It flew more than 500km.

The North conducted two nuclear tests and fired two dozen missiles last year.

Concern has grown that it may carry out another nuclear test or long-range rocket launch.


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