North Korea fires ballistic missile into water between Korea and Japan

Launch marks the first test of Donald Trump’s vow to get tough on the isolated regime

South Korea's military says it's ready to defend against any provocations from North Korea after Pyongyang fired a ballistic missile into the sea off its east coast. Video: Reuters

 

South Korea on Sunday said it would focus on a “corresponding” approach to punish North Korea after Pyongyang launched a ballistic missile into waters off its east coast earlier in the day.

The launch, the first provocation since the inauguration of US president Donald Trump, came as the US leader met with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, and will probably be seen as a test of his new administration’s policies.

“Our government, in tandem with the international community, is doing its best to ensure a corresponding response to punish the North,” said Hwang Kyo-ahn, South Korean acting president, following the launch.

The currently unidentified rocket was fired before 8am local time, and flew 500km before crashing into the waters between Korea and Japan, according to the South Korean military.

Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, condemned the launch as a “highly problematic act”.

He told reporters: “Japan will not tolerate North Korea’s repeated provocative acts, and we have issued a strong protect against North Korea.”

He added that the missile did not land within the country’s exclusive economic zone or cause any damage, although government officials are continuing to analyse the data.

Nuclear threat

In January, North Korea said it could fire a long-range ballistic missile whenever it chooses. The remarks elicited a searing response from Mr Trump, who said “it won’t happen”.

South Korea has yet to establish whether the latest launch was a long-range or a short-range missile.

Mr Trump is currently hosting Mr Abe for meetings at his “winter White House” residence in Florida, and has tweeted numerous laudatory comments about the Japanese leader.

Japan regularly expresses concern about North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic weapons ambitions, and the latest launch is set to be an early test of Washington-Tokyo co-operation.

The Korean peninsula has again vaulted up the leaderboard of potential geopolitical flashpoints after Pyongyang last year tested two nuclear devices and launched more than 20 ballistic missiles.

Before leaving the Oval office, then US president Barack Obama warmed Mr Trump that North Korea would present a key foreign policy challenge.– (Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017)