North Korea’s latest launch of a ballistic missile Sunday drew strong criticism from the United States and other nations.
The White House issued a statement late Saturday saying that North Korea has been “a flagrant menace for too long,” and that the latest “provocation” should serve as a call for all nations to implement stronger sanctions against the North. The statement also pointed out that the missile landed closer to Russia than to Japan, and that President Donald Trump “cannot imagine that Russia is pleased.”
A spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, Hua Chunying, called the situation on the Korean peninsula “complex and sensitive” and that countries “should not do things that further escalate tensions in the region.”
South Korean President Moon called the launch a “clear” violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions and a “serious challenge” to international peace and security. According to senior presidential secretary Yoon Young-chan, Moon expressed “deep regret” over the fact this “provocation” occurred just days after a new government was sworn in in South Korea.
The North Korean missile flew about 435 miles, South Korea’s military said, and was a possible response to the election of Moon four days ago. It also comes as the U.S., Japanese and European militaries gather for war games in the Pacific.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff confirmed the early morning launch but had few other details, including what type of ballistic missile was fired. A statement said that the missile was fired from near Kusong City, in North Phyongan province, and that the South Korean and U.S. militaries are analyzing the details.
Outsiders will be especially interested in what kind of projectile was fired. While North Korea regularly tests shorter-range missiles, it is also working to master the technology needed to field nuclear-tipped missiles that can reach the U.S. mainland.
Last week South Koreans elected a new president, Moon Jae-in, who favors a much softer approach than his conservative predecessor, Park Geun-hye, who is in jail awaiting a corruption trial.
North Korea needs tests to perfect its missile program, but it also is thought to stage its launches after the elections of new U.S. and South Korean presidents in an attempt to gauge a new administration’s reaction.
Moon called an emergency national security meeting Sunday, but he didn’t immediately make any statement on the launch.
North Korea’s past long-range satellite launches have been called clandestine tests of ICBM technology, but it is not believed to have tested a true intercontinental ballistic missile yet. The Trump administration has called North Korean ballistic and nuclear efforts unacceptable and has swung between threats of military action and offers to talk as it formulates a policy.
The launch also comes as troops from the U.S., Japan and two European nations gather on remote U.S. islands in the Pacific for drills that are partly a message to North Korea.
The launch comes the same day a senior North Korean diplomat who handles relations with the United States said Pyongyang would hold talks with Washington under the “right conditions,” according to Yonhap.
Choe Son-hui, director-general of the North America affairs bureau of the North Korean foreign ministry, told reporters at the Beijing Capital International Airport that North Korea “will hold dialogue under right conditions” with the new U.S. administration.
The two countries have not held formal, face-to-face talks since 2008 when international efforts to rein in Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program collapsed.
In an interview in April with Reuters, President Trump warned that a “major, major conflict” with North Korea was possible, but said he would prefer a diplomatic resolution to the issue of North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.
The president also told Bloomberg News recently that he would meet North Korean president Kim Jong Un “under the right circumstances.”
“If it would be appropriate for me to meet with him, I would absolutely, I would be honored to do it,” Trump said in the interview.
Contributing: The Associated Press