N. Korea Fires Missile in Latest Test, U.S. and S. Korea Say

SEOUL (AP) -
People watch a news program showing a file image of a missile launch by North Korea, at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Sunday. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

North Korea on Sunday fired a mid-range ballistic missile, U.S. and South Korean officials said, in the latest weapons test for a country speeding up its development of nuclear weapons and missiles.

The rocket was fired from an area near Pukchang, in South Phyongan Province, and flew eastward about 310 miles, said South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff. It did not immediately provide more details.

The White House said it was aware that North Korea had launched a mid-range ballistic missile.

White House officials traveling in Saudi Arabia with President Donald Trump said the system, which was last tested in February, has a shorter range than the missiles launched in North Korea’s most recent tests.

“South Korea and the United States are closely analyzing the launch for further information,” South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement. “Our military is closely monitoring the North Korean military for any further provocation and maintaining readiness to respond.”

The launch comes a week after North Korea successfully tested a new mid-range missile that Pyongyang said could carry a heavy nuclear warhead. Experts said that rocket flew higher and for a longer time than any other missile previously tested by North Korea, and that it could one day reach targets as far away as Hawaii and Alaska.

Under the watch of third-generation dictator Kim Jong Un, North Korea has been aggressively pursuing a decades-long goal of putting a nuclear warhead on an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the U.S. mainland.

North Korea conducted two nuclear tests last year alone, possibly improving its knowledge on making nuclear weapons small enough to fit on long-range missiles. The country has also conducted a slew of rocket launches as it continues to advance its arsenal of ballistic weapons, which also include mid-range solid-fuel missiles that could be fired from land mobile launchers or submarines.

Such tests present a difficult challenge to new South Korean President Moon Jae-in, a liberal who took office on May 10 and has expressed a desire to reach out to North Korea. Pyongyang’s aggressive push to boost its weapons program also makes it one of the most urgent foreign policy concerns for the Trump administration, though Washington has struggled to settle on a policy.

North Korea’s latest launch came hours after Moon named his new foreign minister nominee and top advisers for security and foreign policy.

Moon held a National Security Council meeting at the presidential Blue House to discuss the missile launch, Moon’s office said.