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North Korea Confirms Launch; U.S., Allies Seek Urgent UN Meeting


North Korea says it has "successfully" test-launched a medium-to-long-range ballistic missile, leading the United States, South Korea, and Japan to request an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council.

The North's state-run KCNA news agency on February 13 identified the missile as a Pukguksong-2, calling it a new type of strategic weapon capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.

KCNA said the missile was fired on February 12, deliberately at a high angle to take "the security of the neighboring countries into consideration." It said leader Kim Jong Un was present and "guided" the launch.

Kim "expressed great satisfaction over the possession of another powerful nuclear-attack means which adds to the tremendous might of the country," KCNA reported.

Pyongyang has made no secret of its desire to develop nuclear weapons and carried out two atomic tests and a series of missile launches last year, including one in August of a missile identified as a Pukguksong.

Late on February 12, an official of the U.S. mission at the United Nations said the United States, Japan, and South Korea requested an urgent UN Security Council meeting and that he expected the hearing to take place on February 13.

Tensions have risen on the Korean Peninsula since Kim last month said the country was close to test-launching an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

U.S. officials said they had tracked the launch and that it was not an ICBM and respresented no danger to the United States.

The weekend launch was the North’s first such test since U.S. President Donald Trump took office and was seen by many as a direct challenge to the president.

The South's Joint Chiefs of Staff said that "our assessment is that it is part of a show of force in response to the new U.S. administration's hard-line position against the North."

The launch drew strong condemnation from Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who were meeting in Florida during the Japanese leader’s U.S. visit.

Abe said the launch was "absolutely unacceptable," while Trump said he stood with Japan "100 percent."

A U.S. official said the Trump administration had expected a "provocation" from the North and that it would consider the "full range" of options, including financial sanctions and increased naval assets in the region.

Later, White House aide Stephen Miller told Fox News that "we are going to reinforce and strengthen our vital alliances in the Pacific region as part of our strategy to deter and prevent the increasing hostility that we've seen in recent years from the North Korean regime."

South Korean acting President and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn said his country will respond to punish the North for the missile launch, condemning it as a "blatant and obvious" violation of UN Security Council resolutions and a "serious threat" to international security.

UN resolutions forbid North Korea from carrying out ballistic-missile tests.

Japan said it will press the Security Council for a "serious response" to the launch.

NATO and the European Union also condemned the launch.

North Korea said the missile was propelled by a solid-fuel engine, which provides less warning of an impending launch because it takes less time to fuel the rocket. It also boosts the power of ballistic missiles, giving them longer range.

With reporting by AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa, and TASS
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