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N. Korea fires ballistic missile tests, vows defiance

SEOUL, April 29 Kyodo

North Korea test-fired a ballistic missile Saturday in a defiant
move likely to aggravate the already heightened tensions on the
Korean Peninsula, while it warned the United States, South Korea and
Japan that they face destruction if war breaks out.

Meanwhile, in a show of force, the U.S. Navy's aircraft carrier
Carl Vinson arrived in the Sea of Japan and conducted a joint drill
with Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyers, followed by one
with South Korea's navy.

In Pyongyang, North Korea's official media slammed the U.S.
dispatch of carrier strike groups to waters off the Korean Peninsula
as "a reckless action of the war maniacs aimed at an extremely
dangerous nuclear war."

A Rodong Sinmun newspaper commentary carried by the Korean
Central News Agency, called it "easy" for North Korea's army to
render such carriers "useless" and warned that the U.S. mainland is
being targeted by its "strategic rockets tipped with powerful nuclear
warheads."

"The Pacific is no longer peaceful ocean which guarantees the
security of the U.S. Its vast territory is exposed to our preemptive
nuclear strike," the commentary said.

It warned that besides causing the United States to "collapse"
in such an event, South Korea would be "submerged in a sea of fire"
and Japan would be "reduced to ashes."

The Hawaii-based U.S. Pacific Command said North Korea's latest
missile launch took place in South Pyeongan Province, north of
Pyongyang, at 5:33 a.m., but the missile "did not leave North Korean
territory."

Japan's top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said it flew
about 50 kilometers and is believed to have fallen on land within
North Korea, while South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said it
reached a maximum altitude of 71 km.

CNN quoted U.S. officials as saying it probably was a
land-based, medium-range, solid-fuel ballistic missile called a KN-17.

It was not immediately clear if the test was a failure.

Amid a visit to London, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
condemned the latest missile test as "intolerable" and said the
international community must unite to increase pressure on N. Korea,
while he also hoped China will play a "constructive" role.

In Washington, U.S. President Donald Trump, who has been pushing
North Korea's long-time benefactor China to rein in leader Kim Jong
Un's pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missile development,
also criticized the latest launch in a Twitter post.

"North Korea disrespected the wishes of China and its highly
respected president when it launched, though unsuccessfully, a
missile today," he wrote.

The North Korean move came hours after the U.N. Security Council
held a ministerial-level meeting at which U.S. Secretary of State Rex
Tillerson urged all U.N. member states to pile greater pressure on
Pyongyang to curb its nuclear and missile programs.

"The threat of a North Korean nuclear attack on Seoul or Tokyo
is real. And it is likely only a matter of time before North Korea
develops the capability to strike the U.S. mainland," he said.

"Failing to act now on the most pressing security issue in the
world may bring catastrophic consequences."

South Korea's navy said the exercise with the Carl Vinson
carrier strike group in the Sea of Japan is a follow-up to one held
in the Yellow Sea between the two navies on Tuesday and is "aimed at
deterring North Korea's provocations and strengthening the military
readiness of the Korea-U.S. alliance."

South Korea's Yonhap News Agency reported that at the core of
the naval exercise lies the missile warning informational link
exercise, or LINKEX, that monitors, traces and intercepts any
intercontinental ballistic missiles from North Korea.

It quoted a military official as saying the U.S. nuclear
submarine Michigan departed South Korea's southern port city of Busan
on Saturday and was set to join the drills.

KCNA, in a separate commentary, said that U.S. muscle-flexing
and talk of not ruling out the military option "can never work" on
North Korea and that Washington should "not misjudge its rival."

"From H-bomb called absolute weaponry to ICBM," it said, North
Korea "has all options of its own style to counter any aggression and
is fully ready to react to any provocation from the U.S."

North Korea's missile launch, which followed the previous failed
attempt on April 16, also comes as the U.S. advanced antimissile
defense system, called Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, is being
deployed in the South.

Tensions have been mounting on the Korean Peninsula following
repeated North Korean missile tests and concerns that Pyongyang may
soon conduct a sixth nuclear test in defiance of U.N. Security
Council resolutions, which also ban it from conducting ballistic
missiles tests. (April 29)