WASHINGTON — North Korea on Tuesday fired a ballistic missile that landed in the sea near Japan, the U.S. military confirmed, the latest in a series of launches that have shaken stability in the region.
President Donald Trump told reporters that the United States takes the launch “very seriously” and promised a response but did not specify what it would be.
“I can only tell you that we will take care of it. It is a situation that we will handle,” he said.
Trump spoke at the White House accompanied by Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, who said the missile had flown higher than any previous missile fired by the rogue communist state.
The launch was part of North Korea’s effort to develop weapons that can threaten any part of the world, Mattis said. It also showed that Pyongyang continues its efforts to build a ballistic missile threat that endangers world peace and the United States.
The Defense Department earlier confirmed a report by South Korea’s Yonhap news agency that the missile was fired.
A Pentagon statement said the U.S. military “detected and tracked” the North Korean missile, which traveled about 620 miles before splashing down in the Sea of Japan, within Japan’s Economic Exclusion Zone.
“Initial assessment indicates that this missile was an intercontinental ballistic missile,” Pentagon spokesman Colonel Robert Manning said in the statement.
The missile was launched Tuesday from Sain Ni in west-central North Korea. It did not pose a threat to North America, U.S. territories or U.S. allies, the statement added.
Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said the missile landed 155 miles off the coast west of the Aomori Prefecture, according to the Kyodo news agency.
Japan’s U.N. ambassador Koro Bessho told reporters in New York that his country has condemned North Korea publicly and said “we criticize their behavior in the strongest possible terms.”
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson condemned the missile launch and said the international community must continue to stand together in demanding that North Korea abandon its nuclear weapons program.
But Tillerson also said diplomatic options “remain viable and open for now.”
In Tokyo, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has vowed to maximize pressure on North Korea
“An outrageous act like this is absolutely intolerable,” he told reporters following the regime’s first missile launch since September.
The international community should unite and fully implement sanctions against North Korea, Abe added.
The missile launch prompted South Korean President Moon Jae-in to call a crisis meeting of the security council in Seoul.
The launch also drew sharp criticism from NATO and the European Union.
“This is a further breach of U.N. Security Council Resolutions, undermining regional and international security,” NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini called it an “outright violation of (North Korea’s) international obligations” under several U.N. Security Council resolutions.”
South Korea’s military first reported the missile launch, saying it was fired eastward from an area north of Pyongyang, the capital, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported.
South Korea reacted by conducting a 20-minute rocket exercise, which the Joint Chiefs of Staff said included a “precision strike” missile launch, Yonhap said.
The launch comes just over a week since Trump re-designated the country a state sponsor of terrorism as part of the United States’ “maximum pressure campaign” to isolate Pyongyang over its nuclear activities.
Trump in the past has strongly condemned North Korea for its missile launches. He has said the missiles and testing them “further isolate North Korea, weaken its economy, and deprive its people.”
Trump also threatened to unleash “fire and fury” and to “totally destroy” North Korea if necessary after an August missile launch. He later toned down his rhetoric, saying the U.S. would “take all necessary steps to ensure the security of the American homeland and protect our allies in the region.”
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