Asia-Pacific News

North Korea fires another ballistic missile into the sea just a day ahead of Trump-Xi meeting

White House official: Priority is a denuclearized North Korea
White House official: Priority is a denuclearized North Korea

North Korea fired a ballistic missile on Wednesday from its east coast into the sea off the Peninsula, South Korea's military said, ahead of a summit between U.S. and Chinese leaders who are set to discuss Pyongyang's arms program.

The launch comes just ahead of a summit meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping this week in Florida that among other key issues that will discuss how to rein in North Korea, senior White House official said on Tuesday, saying the issue was a test of the U.S.-Chinese relationship.

Briefing reporters on the Trump-Xi meetings, the official said the president sees the meeting as the first step in a "results-oriented relationship" and that he wants economic ties that are fair, balanced and based on reciprocity.

After the test, a terse statement from the U.S. State Department was issued.

"North Korea launched yet another intermediate range ballistic missile," U.S. Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson said in the statement. "The United States has spoken enough about North Korea. We have no further comment."

The launch Wednesday in Asia was from Sinpo, a port city on the North's east coast, and the missile flew about 60 km (40 miles), South Korea's Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a short statement. Sinpo is the site of a North Korean submarine base.

Separately, the U.S. military's Pacific Command confirmed the launch in a statement on Tuesday. Initial assessments indicate it was a KN-15 medium-range ballistic missile, the statement said.

Any launch of objects using the ballistic missile technology is a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions, but the North has defied the ban as infringement of its sovereign rights to self defense and pursuit of space exploration.

Trump tells the Financial Times that he's ready to take on North Korea, with or without China
Trump tells the Financial Times that he's ready to take on North Korea, with or without China

North Korea attempted to launch a ballistic missile two weeks ago from its east coast and earlier in March fired four missiles towards Japan, some of which came as close as 300 km (190 miles) to Japan's coast.

The reclusive state has also conducted two nuclear weapons tests since January 2016.

The North is believed to be developing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that can hit the United States and its leader, Kim Jong Un, has vowed to test-launch one at any time.

Experts and officials in the South and the United States believe Pyongyang is still some time away from mastering all the technology needed for an operational ICBM system, such as re-entry of the atmosphere and subsequent missile guidance.