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North Korea test-fires ballistic missile in defiance of international pressure

Pyongyang has launched a mid-range rocket that broke apart shortly after launch, according to the US and South Korea militaries. The test came shortly after the UN issued a warning to North Korea to cease provocations.

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North Korea test-fires missile amid rising tension – Correspondent Bruce Harrison

North Korea test-fired a mid-range ballistic missile on Saturday, defying tough rhetoric from the United Nations and Washington just hours earlier. However, according to reports from both the US and South Korean military, the test failed - with the rocket breaking into pieces soon after launch.

"The missile did not leave North Korean territory," and did not pose a threat to North America, said Commander Dave Benham of the US military's Pacific Command. After being briefed on the launch, US President Donald Trump wrote on Twitter that the Kim regime had "disrespected the wishes of China," its sole friendly neighbor.

Beijing, however, appeared to be cautioning both sides when Foreign Minister Wang Yi said: "The use of force does not solve differences and will only lead to bigger disasters." 

He made it clear that China did not want seen as sole arbiter of peace in East Asia, saying "the key to solving the nuclear issue on the peninsula does not lie in the hands of the Chinese."

Although Pyongyang routinely tests various missiles, Saturday's launch came amidst particularly high tensions with the United States and President Trump has taken a harder line than his predecessors toward North Korea.

Tough talk at the UN

On Friday afternoon, at a meeting of the UN Security Council, top diplomats from the US and Japan called for tougher action on North Korean provocation.

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"We much prefer a negotiated solution to this problem but are committed to defending ourselves and our allies," said US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Tillerson has previously warned that Washington's policy of "strategic patience" was at an end.

For the past 20 years, well-intentioned efforts to dismantle the program have failed," he added, calling for tougher economic sanctions. "With each test, North Korea pushes Asia and the world closer to conflict."

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also called on North Korea to "stop tests immediately," and said that the international body would "assist in any way possible."

After the failed missile launch, South Korea immediately warned the international community that if it did not take a tougher stance on Pyongyang's weapons programs "we will only further feed the trigger happy regime," of Kim Jong-Un.

Tokyo also issued a statement saying that North Korea had violated UN resolutions, condemning the test in no uncertain terms.

es/se (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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