North Korea conducted another ballistic missile test, just 48 hours before U.S. President Donald Trump is due to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping to discuss Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions.
The projectile was fired into the East Sea early Wednesday and flew about 60 kilometers, South Korea's joint chiefs of staff said in a text message.
Any launch of objects using the ballistic missile technology is a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions, but the North has defied the ban as infringement of its sovereign rights to self-defense and pursuit of space exploration.
Launch follows Trump threat
Wednesday's launch came after Trump threatened that the U.S. is prepared to go it alone in bringing the North to heel if China does not step in.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson issued a terse statement from Washington in response to Pyongyang's latest test: “The United States has spoken enough about North Korea. We have no further comment.”
During his trip to South Korea last month, Tillerson rejected Washington's long-standing policy of “strategic patience” in dealing with the hermit regime. “We are exploring a new range of diplomatic, security and economic measures,” he said. “All options are on the table.”
North Korea responds to tough talk
North Korea's foreign ministry on Monday assailed Washington for its tough talk and for an ongoing joint military exercise with South Korea and Japan, which Pyongyang sees as a dress rehearsal for invasion.
The “reckless actions” are driving the tense situation on the Korean peninsula “to the brink of a war,” a ministry spokesman was quoted as saying by the official KCNA news agency.
South Korean intelligence warned in late March that North Korea could detonate a nuclear device in the first week of April to “overshadow” the U.S.-China summit.
Meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, earlier in the month, Tillerson and said tensions on the Korean Peninsula have reached a “rather dangerous level.”
“I think we share a common view and a sense that tensions in the peninsula are quite high right now,” Tillerson said. “We will work together to see if we cannot bring the government in Pyongyang to a place where they want to make a different course — make a course correction — and move away from the development of nuclear weapons.”
Four missiles fired in March
Last month, North Korea fired four ballistic missiles into the sea off Japan in response to annual U.S.-South Korea military drills, which the North sees as a preparation for war.
Three of the missiles flew about 1,000 kilometers and landed in Japanese waters, the Pentagon said. U.S. officials said the weapons were medium-range rockets that did not pose a threat to North America.