Donald Trump says he 'can't imagine Russia is pleased' as North Korea fires ballistic missile into Sea of Japan

'The United States should never expect us to give up our nuclear capability,' North's state media warns

The US President has an 'ironclad commitment' to stand with allies against the North Korea threat, says a statement
The US President has an 'ironclad commitment' to stand with allies against the North Korea threat, says a statement

Donald Trump "cannot imagine Russia is pleased" with North Korea's latest missile test as it landed closer to Russia than Japan.

North Korea's ballistic missile flew for half an hour and reached an unusually high altitude before landing in the Sea of Japan, the South Korean, Japanese and US militaries said.

"With the missile impacting so close to Russian soil, in fact – closer to Russia than to Japan – the President cannot imagine that Russia is pleased," the White House said in a statement.

North Korea had been "a flagrant menace for too long," it said, and Washington maintains its "ironclad commitment" to stand with its allies in the face of the serious threat it poses.

The latest "provocation" should serve as a call for all nations to implement far stronger sanctions against the North, it added.

North Korean defector: Kim Jong-Un would launch a nuclear attack if his rule was threatened

The North's launch was "not consistent with an intercontinental ballistic missile," the US Pacific Command said.

Japanese Defence Minister Tomomi Inada said the missile flew for about 30 minutes, travelling about 800km (500 miles) and reaching an altitude of 2,000km (1,240 miles) — a flight pattern that could indicate a new type of missile.

David Wright, co-director of the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said the missile could have a range of 4,500km (about 2,800 miles) if flown on a standard, instead of a lofted, trajectory – considerably longer than Pyongyang's current missiles.

He said the launch may have been of a new mobile, two-stage liquid-fuelled missile North Korea displayed in a huge military parade last month.

The flight path of the ballistic missile was a considerable distance from Russian territory and posed no threat to Russia, the Russian defence ministry said.

A Kremlin spokesman said earlier that Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is visiting Beijing, was concerned about the missile test.

North Korea is widely believed to be developing an intercontinental missile tipped with a nuclear weapon capable of reaching the United States, which Mr Trump has vowed not to let happen.

The North's state media said the nation will bolster its nuclear capability unless the United States abandons its hostile policy.

"The United States should never expect us to give up our nuclear capability," the main Rodong newspaper said in a commentary carried by the Korean Central News Agency.

It said Mr Trump's "maximum pressure and engagement" policy is only aimed at "stifling us" and will compel the North to "strengthen our nuclear deterrent at the maximum speed."

Mr Trump has previously said he would be "honoured" to meet North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un under the right circumstances.

Yesterday, a top North Korean diplomat said the reclusive state was open to dialogue with the Trump administration under the right conditions.

North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un watches a military drill marking the 85th anniversary of the establishment of the Korean People's Army

South Korea and Japan also swiftly condemned the launch, which jeopardises South Korean leader Moon Jae-in's willingness for dialogue with the rival North.

"The president expressed deep regret over the fact that this reckless provocation ... occurred just days after a new government was launched in South Korea," a senior presidential secretary said.

"The president said we are leaving open the possibility of dialogue with North Korea, but we should sternly deal with a provocation to prevent North Korea from miscalculating."

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters the launch was "absolutely unacceptable" and Japan will respond resolutely.

Japan's Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said he and his South Korean counterpart agreed "dialogue for dialogue's sake with North Korea is meaningless."

China's foreign ministry expressed opposition to the missile test and called on all sides to exercise restraint.

A Ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, said countries "should not do things that further escalate tensions in the region".

In Beijing, Chinese President Xi Jinping told Russian counterpart Mr Putin their countries are both playing an "important role as a balancing power" in world affairs by seeking a peaceful way out for of the crises in Syria and the Korean Peninsula.

Kim Jong-un inspects the North's defences

Last month, North Korea launched the Pukguksong-2 missile, an upgraded, extended-range version of its submarine-launched ballistic missile, from the same site.

South Korean and US military officials said the launch was a significant development as it successfully tested a solid-fuel engine from a mobile launcher. The missile flew about 500km with an altitude of 550km.

The North attempted but failed to test-launch ballistic missiles four times in the past two months but has conducted various tests since the beginning of last year at an unprecedented pace.

It also conducted its fourth and fifth nuclear tests last year.

The launch also comes as troops from the US, Britain, France and Japan gather on remote US islands in the Pacific for drills that are partly a message to North Korea.

The USS Carl Vinson, an aircraft supercarrier, is also engaging with South Korean navy ships in waters off the Korean Peninsula.

Additional reporting by agencies

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