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New North Korean Missile Test Triggers Condemnation, Concern

  • RFE/RL

China has been under pressure, especially from the United States, to help rein in North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

North Korea's test of a ballistic missile has triggered an international outcry, with the EU and NATO calling it a "threat to international peace and security" and Russia and China voicing concern about mounting tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

The hermit state launched the ballistic missile early on May 14 in what was widely seen as a challenge to the new president of South Korea, Moon Jae-in, a liberal elected this month who says he wants to ease tensions with Pyongyang.

The missile flew more than 700 kilometers for half an hour and reached an altitude of more than 2,000 kilometers, according to officials in South Korea and Japan, before landing in the Sea of Japan surrounded by the Korean Peninsula, Japan, and the Russian Far East.

"This and previous launches constitute a threat to international peace and security and further aggravate tensions in the region at a time when de-escalation is instead needed," Maja Kocijancic, the EU foreign-affairs spokeswoman, said in a statement.

NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu mirrored that language, also calling Pyongyang's move "a threat to international peace and security" and "a new flagrant breach of a series of United Nations Security Council resolutions."

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping, meanwhile, voiced concern about rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula following the test, Putin's spokesman said.

Speaking on the sidelines of a visit by Putin to Beijing, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the two leaders "discussed the situation on the Korean Peninsula in detail" and "both parties expressed their concern over the escalation of tensions."

The White House earlier said President Donald Trump "cannot imagine Russia is pleased" with North Korea's latest missile test.

"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," said a White House statement, which also called for "far stronger sanctions" against Pyongyang.

China called for "restraint," warning against increasing tensions in the region.

"China opposes the DPRK's violation of the [UN] Security Council's resolutions," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

China has been under pressure, especially from the United States, to help rein in North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Beijing hosted a summit on May 14 to promote its global trade infrastructure project and delegations from North Korea and the United States were expected at the forum.

Putin and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, were also attending the summit.

China is North Korea's only major ally and economic lifeline. It has been reluctant to increase pressure to avoid upsetting the status quo and risk an influx of refugees.

The North has stepped up tests of its missile program in recent months, although several failures have been detected by South Korean and U.S. officials.

The missile flew further and higher than an intermediate-range missile North Korea successfully tested in February from the same region of Kusong

North Korea's nuclear and ballistic- and nuclear-missile program has been banned by the United Nations, and many countries generally issue condemnations after each launch.

Trump previously has called the tests unacceptable. The administration has at times issued military threats and at other times offered talks with Pyongyang.

North Korea is widely believed to be developing an intercontinental missile tipped with a nuclear weapon that is capable of reaching the U.S. Trump has vowed not to let that happen.

The launch is the first since South Korea's new president, Moon Jae-in, took office this week. He has said he favors engagement with Pyongyang to bring it to the negotiating table, in contrast to a tougher stand by his predecessor.

Nevertheless, Moon on May 14 condemned the missile launch as a "reckless provocation."

Moon's office said on May 12 that the South Korean leader urged Putin in a 20-minute phone call to play a "constructive role" in resolving tensions with North Korea over its threats to use nuclear weapons.

The launch will also complicate Moon's efforts to improve ties with China, after South Korea’s former government decided to position a U.S. anti-missile defense system aimed at defending against North Korea.

China considers the system's powerful radar a threat to its security.

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