Nuclear-armed North Korea fired a ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan on Wednesday, in what analysts said was a warning ahead of a China-US summit at which Pyongyang’s accelerating atomic weapons programme is set to top the agenda.
South Korea’s defence ministry said the missile -– launched days after Pyongyang warned of retaliation if the global community ramps up sanctions — had flown 60 kilometres (about 40 miles).
The incident represented a “threat to the peace and stability of the whole world”, Seoul said, while Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe labelled it a “grave provocation”.
In a terse statement, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said: “The United States has spoken enough about North Korea. We have no further comment.”
The launch — a KN-15 medium-range ballistic missile — will fuel international concerns about the hermit state’s weapons programme.
Pyongyang is on a quest to develop a long-range missile capable of hitting the US mainland with a nuclear warhead, and has so far staged five nuclear tests, two of them last year.
The latest launch came after President Donald Trump threatened the US was prepared to go it alone in bringing the North to heel.
His comments, in an interview with the Financial Times, were interpreted as an effort to up the pressure on Beijing ahead of a summit on Thursday and Friday.
Trump will host China’s President Xi Jinping at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida for their first face-to-face meeting, where the growing tensions on the Korean peninsula are expected to be high on the agenda.
The Trump administration has repeatedly insisted that Beijing holds the key to stopping its errant neighbour and is not doing enough to control it.
China is North Korea’s sole major diplomatic friend and a key trading partner that supplies the isolated state with much of its hard currency in the face of stringent global sanctions.
But Beijing is wary of putting too much pressure on North Korea for fear of the unpredictable consequences if the regime collapses.
Chang Yong-Seok, a researcher at the Seoul National University’s Institute for Peace and Unification Studies, said the missile test was…