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Trump Faces Second ‘Ballistic’ Challenge | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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People watch the news showing file footage of a North Korean missile launch, at a railway station in Seoul, South Korea, February 12, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

London – North Korea fired a ballistic missile into the sea on Sunday, the second challenge of its kind facing the U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration following the Iranian test.

During his visit to the U.S. where he is spending the weekend at one of Trump’s golf resorts in Florida, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called North Korea’s latest missile test “absolutely intolerable.”

This is the first test launched by North Korea since the election of Trump last November.

The U.S. president did not directly comment of the North Korean behavior, which is considered a violation to several U.S. Security Council resolutions. Instead, Trump preferred to say he stood behind Japan. “I just want everybody to understand and fully know that the United States of America stands behind Japan, its great ally, 100 percent,” he said.

The South Korean Foreign Ministry said in a statement the missile was launched from an area called Panghyon in North Korea’s western region around 7:55 a.m. local time.

The ministry condemned the launch as a “blatant and obvious” violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions and a “serious threat” to international security.

AFP quoted a spokesperson at the South Korean ministry as saying the missile flew about 500 kilometers before falling into the sea, adding the exact type of missile had yet to be identified.

“Today’s missile launch… is aimed at drawing global attention to the North by boasting its nuclear and missile capabilities. It is also believed that it was an armed provocation to test the response from the new U.S. administration under President Trump,” the spokesperson added.

A South Korean army official quoted by Yonhap news agency ruled out the possibility of a long-range missile test, describing the device as an upgraded version of the North’s Rodong missile.

Seoul-based academic Yang Moo-Jin said the latest test was “a celebratory launch” to mark the February 16 birthday of Kim Jong-Il, late ruler and father of current leader Kim Jong-Un.

Meanwhile, South Korea’s acting president Hwang Gyo-Ahn vowed a “corresponding punishment” in response to the launch.

Also on Sunday, France condemned the launch in a statement issued by its foreign ministry that said: “France reaffirms its solidarity with its partners in Asia-Pacific whose security is threatened by the North Korean nuclear and ballistic program.”