North Korea launched a ballistic missile early Sunday over the Sea of Japan. South Korean military officials said the projectile fell into the sea.
The incident was the first military launch by North Korea since U.S. President Donald Trump took office 22 days ago. The initial reaction from Western analysts was that Pyongyang appeared to have staged the launch as a test of how Trump would react to the situation.
Initial reports indicated the missile was an intermediate-range rocket, capable of reaching targets several thousand kilometers from North Korea, but that it was not an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the United States. North Korea has boasted that it is developing such long-range weapons.
Missile falls into sea
At the time of the launch, Trump was in Florida, dining with visiting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The two men had a golf outing earlier in the day.
The missile that the North launched early Sunday at 7:55 a.m. local time (2255 Sunday UTC) apparently was of a type capable of reaching Japan. However, the rocket was fired over the Korean Peninsula eastward, not toward Japanese territory.
South Korean military officials said the object fell into the sea off the east coast of the Korean peninsula, but no precise location was given.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said in his New Year’s speech last month that his isolated country was close to testing a working intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
Mattis had reassured allies
During a visit to the region earlier this month, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis strongly reassured Japan and South Korea of the United States’ commitment to the region and emphasized Washington’s continued support for its allies in Asia.
Mattis warned North Korea that any attack would be met with overwhelming force.
VOA’s Brian Padden in Seoul, South Korea, contributed to this report.