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North Korea tests another missile

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North Korean leader Kim Jong-un refuses to bow to international pressure. AFP

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea fired a ballistic missile yesterday in defiance of calls to rein in its weapons programme, days after a new leader in its old rival South Korea came to power pledging to engage it in dialogue.
 
The US Pacific Command said it was assessing the type of missile, but it was “not consistent with an intercontinental ballistic missile”. Japanese Defence Minister Tomomi Inada said the missile could be of a new type.
 
The missile flew 700 kilometres and reached an altitude of more than 2,000km, according to officials in South Korea and Japan, further and higher than an intermediate-range missile North Korea successfully tested in February from the same region of Kusong, northwest of its capital, Pyongyang.
 
North Korea is widely believed to be developing an intercontinental missile tipped with a nuclear weapon that is capable of reaching the United States.
 
US President Donald Trump has vowed not to let that happen.
 
Experts said the altitude the missile tested yesterday reached meant it was launched at a high trajectory, which would limit the lateral distance it travelled.
 
But if it was fired at a standard trajectory, it would have a range of at least 4,000km, experts said.
 
Kim Dong-yub, of Kyungnam University’s Institute of Far Eastern Studies in Seoul, said he estimated a standard trajectory would give it a range of 6,000km.
 
Japan said the missile flew for 30 minutes before dropping into the sea between North Korea’s east coast and Japan. The North has consistently test-fired missiles in that direction.
 
“The launch may indeed represent a new missile with a long range,” said Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, referring to the estimated altitude of more than 2,000km. “It is definitely concerning.”
 
In Washington, the White House said Mr Trump “cannot imagine Russia is pleased” with the test as the missile landed closer to Russia than to Japan.
 
The launch served as a call for all nations to implement stronger sanctions against North Korea, it added.
 
Speaking in Beijing, Dmitry Peskov, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, told reporters Mr Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping had discussed the situation on the Korean peninsula, including the latest missile launch, and expressed “mutual concerns” about growing tension.
 
South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who took office on Wednesday, held his first National Security Council in response to the launch, which he called a “clear violation” of UN Security Council resolutions, his office said.
 
“The president said while South Korea remains open to the possibility of dialogue with North Korea, it is only possible when the North shows a change in attitude,” Yoon Young-chan, Mr Moon’s press secretary, told a briefing.
 
China, the North’s sole main ally which nevertheless objects to its weapons programmes, called for restraint and for no one to exacerbate tension.
 
“China opposes relevant launch activities by North Korea that are contrary to Security Council resolutions,” China’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
 
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said North Korea’s missile launches were a “grave threat to our country and a clear violation of UN resolutions”.

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