North Korea test-fires ballistic missile, South Korea says

North Korea fired a ballistic missile on Sunday in an apparent provocation to test the response from new US President Donald Trump, the South Korean defence ministry said.

Sunday's missile test is the first of 2017, the first of Trump's presidency, and comes amid a review of North Korea policy by the new US administration.

North Korea conducted its fifth test of a nuclear device a year ago, and claims it is capable of carrying out a nuclear attack on the USA, but experts are still unconvinced that its technology has progressed that far. The missile was tracked over North Korea and into the Sea of Japan, the release said.

The launch involved an intermediate-range ballistic missile, a senior United States official told CNN.

Seoul and Washington are jointly conducting an assessment to find out what exact type of a missile was launched by Pyongyang, the JCS said.

"The military is determining if the missile is a modified Musudan intermediate-range ballistic missile or the shorter range Rodong missile", a South Korean military source said.

The launch is a likely effort to advance its weapons program and is the first since Donald Trump became president.

South Korea´s acting president Hwang Gyo-Ahn vowed a "corresponding punishment" in response, while Japan´s top government spokesman Yoshihide Suge called the launch "absolutely intolerable".

The reports of the launch came as Trump was hosting Prime Minister Abe and just days before the North is to mark the birthday of leader Kim Jong Un's late father, Kim Jong Il.

Yonhap News Agency first reported the suspected missile test.

Trump assured Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that "America stands behind Japan, its great ally, 100%".

In recent weeks, North Korea has also claimed to be in possession of a newly-developed form of missile technology. Th intercontinental ballistic missile can be fired from concealed road-mobile vehicles, travel 4,000 kilometers and hit the US mainland.

It is also believed that it was an armed provocation to test the response from the new United States administration under President Trump, the statement further added. In a prepared statement, Prime Minister Abe said President Trump assured him the USA supports Japan and that he showed determination and commitment to strengthen the alliance.

Though Pyongyang has been relatively quiet about the transfer of power to the Trump administration, its state media has repeatedly called for Washington to abandon its "hostile policy" and vowed to continue its nuclear and missile development programs until the US changes its diplomatic approach.

They assessed the now urgent security situations, including the DPRK's nuclear and missile programs, vowing to further build up a joint defense posture against Pyongyang.

  • Julie Sanders