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North Korea test-fires sub-launched missile close to Japan
By Park Chan-Kyong
Seoul (AFP) Aug 24, 2016

China 'opposes' N.Korea's nuclear and missile development: FM
Tokyo (AFP) Aug 24, 2016 - Beijing opposes North Korea's nuclear and missile development, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Wednesday, hours after Pyongyang test-launched a ballistic missile from a submarine towards Japan.

"China is opposed to North Korea's nuclear and missile development process and is opposed to any actions that trigger tensions on the Korean peninsula," Wang told reporters after a meeting with the foreign ministers of Japan and South Korea.

"China is opposed to any actions that violate UN Security Council Resolution 2270," Wang added, referring to a resolution passed in March that condemns North Korea's military threats, including missile development and nuclear tests.

He also said that the three ministers discussed the situation on the Korean peninsula.

Japan and South Korea regularly condemn Pyongyang for its nuclear and missile development, but are frustrated by what they see as a lack of pressure on the country by the North's economic lifeline China.

The trilateral meeting of the foreign ministers, their first since March 2015, comes as Tokyo, Seoul and Beijing have struggled to find common ground on how to deal with North Korea.

Wang did not directly refer to Wednesday's launch, but it came as he was making the first visit to Japan by a Chinese foreign minister since Xi Jinping became president in 2013 and could be seen as an embarrassment for Beijing.

South Korean foreign minister Yun Byung-Se condemned the launch.

"I stressed the current situation is urgent and serious as the North has quickly improved its nuclear and ballistic missile capability more than ever, including this morning's launch of an SLBM," he said, referring to a submarine-launched ballistic missile.

Japanese foreign minister Fumio Kishida, also condemned the launch.

"We can never accept the provocative act and protested to North Korea," he told reporters.

"At today's meeting, we confirmed that Japan, China and South Korea... will strongly call on North Korea to refrain from provocative acts and comply with the UN resolution."

Wang had earlier called for calm after news of the launch emerged.

"We hope that (the situation) will not become more tense and complicated," he told reporters ahead of trilateral talks, Jiji Press reported.

The talks begin as Japan, China and South Korea are themselves at odds over various territorial disputes and a US missile defence system.

Sino-Japanese tensions over a territorial dispute have risen this month, while China and South Korea have sparred over the planned deployment in the latter country of a US anti-missile system.

The Tokyo-Seoul relationship is also prone to periodic tension due to the legacy of Japan's harsh colonisation of the Korean peninsula from 1910-45.

North Korea on Wednesday test-fired a submarine-launched missile 500 kilometres (around 300 miles) towards Japan, marking what weapons analysts called a clear step forward for its nuclear strike ambitions.

The flight distance, which was tracked by South Korea's military Joint Chiefs of Staff, far exceeded any previous SLBM tests, suggesting significant progress in technical prowess.

A proven SLBM system would take North Korea's nuclear strike threat to a new level, allowing deployment far beyond the Korean peninsula and a "second-strike" capability in the event of an attack on its military bases.

"While there are still a lot of questions about the details, this test certainly seems to have been successful," said Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in California.

"This system is still in development, but North Korea is clearly making progress," Lewis told AFP.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency cited a military source as saying Wednesday's launch had been made at an acute angle to limit the missile's range.

If fired at the optimum angle, it could cover more than 1,000km, the source said.

Current UN resolutions prohibit North Korea from any use of ballistic missile technology, but Pyongyang has continued to carry out numerous launches following its fourth nuclear test in January.

South Korea has responded by agreeing to deploy a sophisticated US anti-missile system -- known as THAAD -- a move that has seriously strained relations with North Korea's main diplomatic ally, China.

- 'Effective countermeasure' -

Lewis noted that an SLBM was an "effective countermeasure" to THAAD, and other missile systems with forward-looking radars, since the submarine can launch the missile from behind the radar.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Wednesday's missile breached his country's Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) and condemned what he called an "unforgivable, reckless act."

Earlier this month, North Korea fired a land-launched ballistic missile directly into Japanese-controlled waters for the first time, drawing an outraged response from Tokyo.

The latest test came just days after North Korea threatened a pre-emptive nuclear strike against South Korean and US forces who kicked off their annual "Ulchi Freedom" military drill on Monday.

Seoul and Washington insist such joint exercises are purely defensive in nature, but Pyongyang views them as willfully provocative.

The South's Joint Chiefs of Staff statement said that the North was clearly bent on escalating tensions and said the SLBM test posed a "serious challenge" to security on the Korean peninsula.

"We will deal strongly and sternly with any provocation by the North," it said.

Washington also condemned the test and Pentagon spokesman Gary Ross said US commitment to the defence of allies South Korea and Japan remained "ironclad."

Beijing expressed its opposition to North Korea's nuclear and missile development hours after Pyongyang's missile launch.

"China is opposed to North Korea's nuclear and missile development process and any actions that trigger tensions on the Korean peninsula," Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Wednesday after a meeting with the foreign ministers of Japan and South Korea in Tokyo.

- Invasion scenario -

The Ulchi Freedom drill plays out a scenario of full-scale invasion by the nuclear-armed North. It is largely computer-simulated but still involves around 50,000 Korean and 25,000 US soldiers.

The exercise always triggers a rise in tensions, and coincided this year with a particularly volatile period in cross-border relations following a series of high-profile defections.

Last week North Korea's deputy ambassador to Britain, Thae Yong-Ho, defected to the South -- a rare and damaging loss of diplomatic face for Pyongyang and a major PR victory for Seoul.

In comments clearly aimed at riling Pyongyang, South Korean President Park Geun-Hye said the "unpredictability" of supreme leader Kim Jong-Un's character intensifies the dangers of further North Korean provocations.

North Korea has conducted a number of SLBM tests -- most recently in April and July -- with varying degrees of success.

Previous flight distances have not exceeded 30 kilometres, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff statement acknowledged that Wednesday's test showed a marked improvement.

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Previous Report
S. Korea-US military drill shadowed by N. Korea threats
Seoul (AFP) Aug 22, 2016
South Korea and the United States kicked off large-scale military exercises on Monday, triggering condemnation and threats of a pre-emptive nuclear strike from North Korea. The two-week annual Ulchi Freedom drill, which plays out a scenario of full-scale invasion by the nuclear-armed North, is largely computer-simulated but still involves around 50,000 Korean and 25,000 US soldiers. The ... read more

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