North Korea on Saturday morning defied global pressure and test-fired a ballistic missile, said South Korean and United States military officials. It was reportedly fired from a site in South Pyeongan province in north of Pyongyang.
South Korea said the missile exploded just a few seconds after the launch. “North Korea fired an unidentified missile from a site in the vicinity of Bukchang in Pyeongannam-do early Saturday morning,” said the South Korean joint chiefs of staff in a statement, according to BBC. The US military said the missile did not leave the North Korean territory. However, Pyongyang is yet to confirm the test firing.
The type of missile is not yet known. But US officials told Reuters that they suspect it to be a medium-range weapon known as a KN-17.
The test-fire comes a time when US is pushing for tougher sanctions to curb North Korea’s nuclear powers. Almost a few hours prior to the launch, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urged the United Nations to act fast. Speaking at the UN Security Council, he warned of “catastrophic consequences” if North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes were not checked. Tillerson also hinted at the possibility of a strike by North Korea on the US mainland.
US President Donald Trump condemned the exercise. “North Korea disrespected the wishes of China and its highly-respected president when it launched, though unsuccessfully, a missile today. Bad!,” Trump tweeted.
Italian UN Ambassador and Chairperson of the Security Council’s North Korean sanctions committee Sebastiano Cardi said the test-firing was illegal, according to Reuters. “It’s another provocative action by North Korea,” he added. Japan, too, condemned the launch and called it a violation of UN resolutions. North Korea’s biggest ally China, however, did not make any statement.
Trump had announced that his administration would prevent the North from targeting its mainland with nuclear weapons. Tension started brewing since April 7 when Trump ordered a missile attack in Syria as retaliatory measure to a deadly chemical attack. On April 11, the North Korean state media had warned of a nuclear attack on the United States at any sign of American aggression. The US had dropped its largest non-nuclear bomb on Afghanistan on April 13.