North Korea missile test: Donald Trump and Japanese PM respond to 'intolerable' launch

Launch is 'absolutely intolerable', says Abe during retreat at Mar-a-Lago resort

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The Independent US

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has called North Korea's latest missile test "absolutely intolerable" during his visit to the US.

Mr Abe and President Donald Trump put on a united front against the provocative test with Mr Trump saying he stood behind Japan "100 per cent".

It was the North's first test during the Trump presidency and the missile landed in the sea between Japan and the Korean peninsula, though not in Japanese territory. The North conducted two nuclear tests and a slew of rocket launches last year in continued efforts to expand its nuclear weapons and missile programmes.

Speaking at one of Mr Trump's golf resorts in Florida, Mr Abe said: "North Korea's most recent missile launch is absolutely intolerable. President Trump and I myself completely share the view that we are going to promote further cooperation between the two nations. And also we are going to further reinforce our alliance."

North Korea must fully comply with all UN Security Council resolutions, he added.

Kim Jong-un's regime has been subject to harsh economic sanctions, including restrictions on coal shipments, because of its weapons testing.

And the country's highest-profile defector, Thae Yong-ho, the former deputy ambassador in London, has said Mr Kim hopes to control a functioning nuclear arsenal by the end of this year.

Mr Abe and Mr Trump's joint statement was made at the Jupiter golf club, which the US President owns. Journalists in the White House press pool tweeted images of windows that had been blacked out to prevent them from photographing the leaders' round of golf.

The US Strategic Command said it detected and tracked what it assessed was a medium- or intermediate-range ballistic missile test-fired by the North, which did not post a risk to America. The command said the launch occurred near the northwestern city of Kusong.

Mr Kim warned in his New Year's address that his country was ready to test its first intercontinental ballistic missile, which could threaten the US mainland.

South Korea said the launch launch, along with the New Year's address threat, showed the "irrational nature" of a government "fanatically" obsessed with developing nuclear ballistic missiles. 

The South's Foreign Ministry condemned the launch as a "blatant and obvious" violation of UN Security Council resolutions and a "serious threat" to international security. 

The ministry said the South would continue to work with allies including the US, Japan and the European Union to ensure a thorough implementation of sanctions against the North and make the country realise that it will "never be able to survive" without discarding all of its nuclear and missile programmes.

France, Russia and Italy also condemned the launch.

Leonid Slutsky, head of the foreign affairs committee in the lower house of the Russian parliament, was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying North Korea's behavior "is a definite challenge to all of us" and "a reminder that we should not relax and should understand that the situation of the peninsula is quite unstable and may turn into a hot conflict." 

He added: "In connection with this, we need to work intensively on the Korean dossier and not slow down the pace for all of us." US-Russia cooperation on the matter was possible "however utopian that may appear now," he said.

Italy's foreign ministry said North Korea must "interrupt its path of challenging the international community and of self-isolation."

France's foreign ministry said: "France reaffirms its solidarity with its partners in Asia-Pacific whose security is threatened by the North Korean nuclear and ballistic programme."

Additional reporting by agencies.