The US and South Korea yesterday agreed to proceed with the deployment of an advanced US missile defense system that has angered China, one day after North Korea's latest test launch drew condemnation across the volatile region.
In early March, North Korea also test-launched four ballistic missiles that landed in the Sea of Japan.
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) The missile in North Korea's latest launch didn't fly very far, but it may have been the second test of a technology that worries experts.
Meantime, North Korea threatened to conduct more missile testings in response to the two-month-long Foal Eagle exercise between the US and South Korea, which will last through April.
Gen. John Hyten, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, told a congressional panel Tuesday that the February launch marked a significant advancement for North Korea because it was its first successful solid-fueled missile fired from a mobile launcher.
In a related development, the Japanese government chose to extend its own unilateral sanctions against North Korea by two years over the test launch.
"Both sides agreed to pursue ... plans in order to substantially strengthen the global community's sanctions and pressure on North Korea", South Korea's presidential Blue House said in a statement.
North Korea is ready to deliver the "most ruthless blow" if provoked by the United States, its ambassador to Moscow has warned.
The news comes five years after the USA agreed to increase the permissible range of South Korean missiles from 300 km to 800 km.
"We assess (the sanctions) as the EU's resolute warning message put to action in response to the North's repeated provocations", the ministry said in a comment issued in the name of its spokesman.
However, a senior USA defense official told reporters Wednesday that the missile may have been an older liquid-fueled, extended-range scud missile fired from a fixed location.
U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said Monday that "the United States has seen China for 25 plus years say that they're concerned about North Korea, but we haven't seen them act like they're concerned about North Korea".
"We agreed that North Korea's ballistic missile launch yesterday was a unsafe provocative act and a grave threat to our country's security", Abe told reporters after the two leaders' 35-minute telephone call on Thursday.
North Korea is pushing hard to upgrade its weapons systems to cope with what it calls US hostility. "The only question is when they are going to be able to mate them with a nuclear weapon", he said.
North Korea fired another ballistic missile Wednesday morning, military officials in the United States and South Korea said, apparently testing a land-based version of its rocket that can be fired from a submarine.
"We are now certain it was a liquid-fueled Scud", said a senior White House official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.