Fresh N. Korean ballistic missile test draws condemnation

People watching a news report at a railway station in Seoul about North Korea firing what appeared to be a short-range ballistic missile yesterday.
People watching a news report at a railway station in Seoul about North Korea firing what appeared to be a short-range ballistic missile yesterday.PHOTO: REUTERS

SEOUL • North Korea conducted another ballistic missile test early yesterday morning, drawing condemnation from South Korea and Japan just days after world leaders urged the North to abandon its nuclear weapons programme.

The missile, which appeared to be a Scud variant, was fired from Wonsan off North Korea's east coast and flew 450km towards Japan, according to South Korean military officials. It may have reached waters in Japan's exclusive economic zone, Bloomberg reported, quoting Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga. North Korea has a large stockpile of the missiles, originally developed by the Soviet Union.

The provocation - the ninth this year - came two days after the Group of Seven (G-7) nations pledged to strengthen measures aimed at prompting North Korea to cease nuclear and ballistic missile tests. World leaders are grappling with how to halt provocations by the isolated nation, with South Korea's President Moon Jae In seeking engagement while United States President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe take a harder line, said Bloomberg.

Mr Trump has been briefed on the launch, said a US National Security Council spokesman.

Japan said the missile landed about 300km from the Oki islands off the country's west coast. There was no reported damage to vessels or aircraft in the area, according to The Japan Times.

Yesterday's missile test was the third since Mr Moon came to office earlier this month promising a two-track approach of sanctions and dialogue with Pyongyang.

DIRECT REFUSAL FOR PEACE

To make these frequent provocations since the new administration took office constitutes a direct refusal of our request for denuclearisation and peace on the Korean peninsula, and goes against the united will of the international community, as shown in the G-7 declaration two days ago.

SOUTH KOREA'S FOREIGN MINISTRY, on yesterday's missile test - the third since Mr Moon Jae In came to office.

"To make these frequent provocations since the new administration took office constitutes a direct refusal of our request for denuclearisation and peace on the Korean peninsula, and goes against the united will of the international community, as shown in the G-7 declaration two days ago," said South Korea's Foreign Ministry.

Pyongyang was likely showing its determination to push ahead in the face of international pressure to rein in its missile programme and "to pressure the (South Korean) government to change its policy on the North", said South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesman Roh Jae Cheon, as quoted by Reuters.

Japan's Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson agreed in a phone call yesterday that Tokyo and Washington will ramp up pressure on China and Russia to play a bigger role in curbing Pyongyang's nuclear and missile ambitions, said The Japan Times. No details were released.

Chinese State Councillor Yang Jiechi was scheduled to arrive in Tokyo yesterday for a high-level political dialogue, at the invitation of Japan's National Security Adviser Shotaro Yachi. The North Korea issue was expected to be discussed during the visit, reported Reuters.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 30, 2017, with the headline 'Fresh N. Korean ballistic missile test draws condemnation'. Print Edition | Subscribe