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North Korea missile test splits world powers

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Reuters

Image caption

North Korea and its leader Kim Jong-un – seen here on a TV screen in Tokyo – are overshadowing the region again

The latest missile test by North Korea, its furthest-reaching yet, has split world powers who united behind new UN sanctions just days ago.

US President Donald Trump said he was more confident than ever of America’s military options, should one be needed.

China earlier accused the US of shirking its responsibilities, while Russia called US rhetoric “aggressive”.

The UN Security Council has unanimously condemned the missile test, but no new sanctions have been announced.

The missile was fired over Japan and reached an altitude of about 770km (478 miles), travelling 3,700km past the northernmost island of Hokkaido before landing in the sea, South Korea’s military says.

The missile had the capacity to reach the US territory of Guam and experts say it is the furthest any North Korean ballistic missile has ever travelled above ground.

The Security Council convened an emergency meeting, in which members unanimously condemned the missile launch as “highly provocative” – coming as it did after Pyongyang’s nuclear bomb test on 3 September.

US envoy to the UN Nikki Haley had earlier played down the possibility of further punitive action, saying fresh economic sanctions agreed by the council on Monday that restricted oil imports and banned textile exports would cut trade with North Korea by 90%.

President Donald Trump is due to address the UN next week, as well as meet the Japanese and South Korean leaders.

What accusations are being traded?

The missile test has been widely condemned, with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe saying his country would “never tolerate” such “dangerous provocative action”.

President Trump said North Korea had “once again shown its utter contempt for its neighbours, and the entire world community”, but that he felt more confident than ever that the US was ready should a military option be needed.

But world powers were divided over how best to respond.

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Reuters

Image caption

The big powers’ envoys to the UN found common ground on North Korea earlier this month

President Trump’s National Security Adviser HR McMaster earlier said the US was quickly running out of patience for diplomatic solutions, adding: “We’ve been kicking the can down the road, and we’re out of road.”

He confirmed that there was a military option, but it was not the president’s preferred choice.

But Russia’s ambassador to the UN Vasilly Nebenzia urged caution, saying: “We think that threats, tests, launches, and mutual threats in fact should be stopped, and that we should engage in meaningful negotiations.”

  • US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said China, which supplies the North with most of its oil, and Russia, which was the largest employer of North Korean forced labour, should take direct actions to rein in Pyongyang
  • China foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying insisted her country was not the “focal point of the conflict” and directed the following remarks at the US and South Korea: “Any attempt to wash their hands of the issue is irresponsible and unhelpful for resolving the issue.”
  • Russia’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said: “Regrettably, aggressive rhetoric is the only thing coming from Washington.”

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Media captionSirens blare out in Japan to warn people of the missile test

Why does this new test matter?

The launch took place from the Sunan district of the capital Pyongyang just before 07:00 local time (22:00 GMT on Thursday), South Korea’s military says. Sunan is home to Pyongyang International Airport.

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Media caption“I don’t know when I might be killed” – reaction to the latest missile launch

As with the last test on 29 August, the missile flew over Japan’s Hokkaido island before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean.

Sirens sounded across the region and text message alerts were sent out warning people to take cover.

Comparison of missile launches over Japan
15 September 29 August
Distance travelled 3,700km (2,299 miles) 2,700km
Maximum altitude 770km 550km
Landing…

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