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N. Korea test-fires ballistic missile as Trump hosts Abe

North Korea test-fired a ballistic missile that landed in the
Sea of Japan on Sunday, prompting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
and U.S. President Donald Trump to jointly condemn the launch, the
first by Pyongyang since Trump won the presidential election in
November.

The missile flew around 500 kilometers, according to the South
Korean military. It was launched around 7:55 a.m. near the city of
Kusong in North Pyongan Province in the northwest of the country.

"It is absolutely intolerable," Abe declared in an impromptu
joint press announcement with Trump, who said, "I just want everybody
to understand and fully know that the United States of America stands
behind Japan, its great ally, 100 percent."

The leaders were having a working dinner at Trump's vacation
home in Palm Beach, Florida, where they played golf together
following their summit in Washington on Friday.

"President Trump has just made it clear in our leaders' summit
that the United States is with Japan 100 percent at all times, and he
is standing next to me right now in order to demonstrate that," Abe
said.

At the summit, they confirmed Japan and the United States are
facing challenges in the Asia-Pacific region and that bilateral
cooperation is essential to deal with them. Defending against the
North Korean missile and nuclear threat is "a very, very high
priority," Trump said at the time.

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff is checking if the missile
was a Musudan or Rodong medium-range ballistic missile. A Musudan has
a potential range of between 2,500 and 4,000 km and Rodong up to
1,300 km.

It was the North's first ballistic missile launch since Oct. 20,
when it failed to test-fire what was believed to be a Musudan that
could not only target Japan and South Korea but could also reach U.S.
military bases on the Pacific island of Guam.

The missile launched Sunday fell into waters about 350 km off
the east coast of North Korea, Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada
told reporters, adding the government will continue efforts to
determine the type of missile.

Japan lodged a protest with North Korea over the missile launch,
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a hurriedly arranged
press conference.

The missile apparently dropped into the sea outside Japan's
exclusive economic zone, which extends 200 nautical miles (about 370
km) from shore, the top government spokesman said, adding there were
no immediate reports of damage to ships and aircraft.

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said Japan has asked the United
Nations to issue a "strong message" condemning the launch. The
government will also enhance cooperation with the United States and
South Korea in sharing information about North Korea, Kishida told
reporters.

North Korea has been the subject of severe U.N. sanctions
banning it from developing or testing nuclear and ballistic missile
technology.

Despite that, in 2016 alone North Korea test-fired more than 20
ballistic missiles, also including medium-range Rodong-type missiles,
short-range Scuds, and submarine-launched missiles. It also conducted
two nuclear tests last year, most recently in September, its fifth
and largest to date.

In his New Year's address, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said
his country has reached the final stage of preparing to test-launch
an intercontinental ballistic missile.

A week later, North Korea's Foreign Ministry then announced that
Pyongyang could carry out an ICBM test at any time and location
determined by its leadership.

If such an ICBM became fully operational, it could potentially
deliver a nuclear warhead to the U.S. mainland.

The use of a road-mobile launcher for this type of missile would
make it very hard for other countries to detect North Korea's
preparations in advance by satellite.

A modified version of an ICBM known as the road-mobile KN-08 was
among the hardware shown off at a massive military parade in
Pyongyang in October 2015 to mark the 70th anniversary of the
founding of the ruling Workers' Party.

In April last year, North Korea claimed to have successfully
tested a new type of engine for an ICBM.

Kim, who observed the test, was quoted by the country's official
media as saying at the time that it paved the way for "another form
of nuclear attack upon the U.S. imperialists and other hostile
forces."


U.S. President Donald Trump (L) and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe leave a joint press conference in Palm Beach, Florida, on Feb. 11, 2017, following the latest ballistic missile launch by North Korea.