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South Korea says North Korea test fires missile into sea

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It flew about 500 kilometres (310 miles) before falling into the sea, a ministry spokesman said, adding the exact type of missile had yet to be identified. It was launched around 7.55am (5.55am Thailand time) near the city of Kusong, North Pyongan province in the northwest of the country.

South Korea says North Korea's missile test-launch, along with Kim Jong Un's threat to fire an intercontinental ballistic missile in his New Year's address, shows the "irrational nature" of a government that "fanatically" obsesses with developing nuclear ballistic missiles.

Trump then added, without mentioning North Korea or the missile test, that "I just want everybody to understand and fully know that the United States of America stands behind Japan, its great ally, 100 percent". At their summit on Friday in Washington, they confirmed the two countries are facing challenges in the Asia-Pacific region and that bilateral cooperation is essential to deal with them.

Kim Dong-yeop, an analyst at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies in Seoul, said that the projectile could be a Musudan or a similar rocket created to test engines for an intercontinental ballistic missile that could hit the US mainland.

The Yonhap news agency said the South Korean military suspected the North might have been testing an intermediate-range Musudan missile.

The Musudan test-launch may be important to the advancement in the DPRK's ICBM technology as the propellant of its three-stage ICBM is believed to be composed of four Musudan missile engines. Musudan can put the entire Japan and the US military base in Guam in its target range as it is known to have a range of 3,000-4,000 km.

Dr Bong Young Shik of Yonsei University's Institute for North Korean Studies said the North's move will stoke debate over the planned deployment of the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (Thaad) anti- missile system in the South to guard against threats from the North.

Seoul and Washington are jointly conducting an assessment to find out what exact type of a missile was launched by Pyongyang, the JCS said.

Mr Trump is now hosting Mr Abe for meetings at his "winter White House" residence in Florida, and has tweeted numerous laudatory comments about the Japanese leader.

Yoshihide Suga, Japan's chief cabinet secretary, condemned the launch as a "highly problematic act". "We are assessing and will have more information soon".

Pyongyang's lack of serious missile test in November, December, and January suggested that it may have been waiting for the Trump administration to enter office and possibly revisit the Obama administration's North Korea policy.

North Korea test-fired a ballistic missile early Sunday morning. But six sets of United Nations sanctions since Pyongyang's first nuclear test in 2006 have failed to halt its drive for what it insists are defensive weapons.

The leaders also pledged to exert joint pressure on North Korea, "strongly" urging it to scrap the nuclear and ballistic missile programs and "not take any further provocative actions." .

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