North Korea test-fires ballistic missile, South Korea says


In a follow-up interview, a North Korea foreign ministry spokesperson claimed that "the United States is wholly to blame" for the current missile program and testing going on on the Korean peninsula.

The young leader is planning a "prime time" nuclear weapons push this year to take advantage of a leadership transition in South Korea - where the president has been impeached - and the USA, a high-ranking North Korean defector said recently.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is spending the weekend with President Trump at Trump's private Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, appeared with Trump at an odd, hastily-arranged press conference on Saturday night to denounce the test. Trump had been previously asked about the test on Saturday during a photo opportunity with the media on Saturday night, but did not respond to the questions.

North Korea test-fired what is believed to be a ballistic missile Sunday, according to South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Such a test wouldn't be expected to succeed, however, as the report argues an actually functioning North Korean ICBM is likely two or three years away.

South Korea thinks it is a show of force in response to the new United States administration's hardline position against Pyongyang.

North Korea conducted two nuclear tests a year ago in a show of the country's rapidly advancing weapons program.

Meanwhile, South Korea's prime minister and acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn said that the country is preparing to impose strict actions against Pyongyang over the latest act.

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On January 1, Kim Jong-un said that "research and development of cutting edge arms equipment is actively progressing and ICBM rocket test launch preparation is in its last stage".

"Also, considering the mess that the current South Korean government is in now makes this an ideal time to drive a wedge between the ROK-U.S. cooperation".

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

In early February, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, in Seoul, promised an "overwhelming" response to any North Korean use of nuclear weapons.

While Sunday's launch only traveled 500km, one analyst said it was still possible the North may be testing a Musudan.

Following the missile test, South Korea's presidential office called a national security meeting, Yonhap reported.

The response will be calibrated to show strength without escalating tensions on the Korean peninsula, since this was not a nuclear test or an ICBM test.

The official explained that Trump and his administration expected North Korea to try something like this early on.