North Korea test fires short-range missile

SEOUL • North Korea test fired a short-range missile off its eastern coast yesterday, the South's military said, amid heightened tension over the isolated country's nuclear and rocket programmes.

The missile, fired from near the coastal town of Wonsan, flew north-east for about 200km and then "made contact" with the mainland, South Korea's military said.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has presided over a string of short- range missile launches in recent weeks in what state media has characterised as a response to UN sanctions imposed for its fourth nuclear test in January.

US President Barack Obama will meet South Korean President Park Geun Hye and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe tomorrow to discuss North Korea's nuclear programme, the White House has said.

The meeting on the sidelines of a nuclear security summit in Washington will take place the same day Mr Obama has talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

"This meeting will be an opportunity for the three leaders to discuss common responses to the threat posed by North Korea and to advance areas of trilateral security cooperation," the White House said.

North Korea is also sure to figure in the talks between Mr Obama and Mr Xi. Beijing is Pyongyang's only ally, and US policymakers have pushed China to put pressure on the country to stop its nuclear provocations, but China is concerned about the stability of its neighbour.

Tomorrow and on Friday, Mr Obama will welcome top-level delegations from dozens of countries to discuss thorny nuclear safety concerns. The fear that militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria could obtain nuclear material is expected to weigh heavily on the agenda. While the summit will not address issues related to Pyongyang's recent weapons tests, it may touch on stopping the provision of nuclear materials to the country which could be used to develop weapons.

In his talks with Ms Park and Mr Abe, Mr Obama is sure to discuss the ramped-up rhetoric from North Korea, which also launched a long- range rocket last month, triggering new global sanctions.

Pyongyang has been pushing to acquire a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) capability which would take its nuclear strike threat to a new level, allowing deployment far beyond the Korean peninsula and the potential to retaliate in the event of a nuclear attack.

It has conducted a number of what it says were successful tests of an SLBM, but experts question the claim, suggesting Pyongyang had gone little further than a "pop-up" test from a submerged platform.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 30, 2016, with the headline 'North Korea test fires short-range missile'. Print Edition | Subscribe