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North Korea test-fired a ballistic missile into the sea off its east coast on Wednesday, South Korea's military said, ahead of a summit between U.S. and Chinese leaders who are set to discuss Pyongyang's increasingly defiant arms program.
The missile flew about 60 km (40 miles) from its launch site at Sinpo, a port city on North Korea's east coast, the South Korean Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement. Sinpo is home to a North Korean submarine base.
The launch comes just a day before the start of a summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping, where talks about adding pressure on the North to drop its arms development will take center stage.
"The launch took place possibly in consideration of the U.S. -China summit, while at the same time it was to check its missile capability," a South Korean official told Reuters about the military's initial assessment of the launch.
The missile was fired at a high angle and reached an altitude of 189 km (117 miles), the official said.
Any launch of objects using ballistic missile technology is a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions. The North has defied the ban, saying it infringes on its sovereign rights to self-defense and the pursuit of space exploration.
The launch drew swift condemnation from Japan, with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe saying further provocative action was possible.
Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga described the launch as "extremely problematic" and said Tokyo had lodged a strong protest.
South Korea's foreign ministry also condemned the launch as a blunt challenge to a series of U.N. Security Council resolutions targeting North Korea's nuclear and missile program. Seoul called a National Security Council meeting and vowed to respond strongly in case of further provocations.
In a terse statement, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said: "The United States has spoken enough about North Korea. We have no further comment."
Trump wants China to do more to exert its economic influence over unpredictable Pyongyang to restrain its nuclear and missile programs.
Ahead of the U.S.-China summit in Florida, Trump had threatened to use crucial trade ties with China to pressure Beijing into more action on North Korea.
A senior U.S. White House official said Trump wanted to work with China and described the discussions over North Korea as a test for the U.S.-Chinese relationship.
2017.04.05 / 13:36