Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe condemned North Korea’s latest missile launch as “absolutely intolerable” and President Donald Trump assured Japan that the U.S. stands behind it “100 per cent.”

Abe and Trump appeared together for a statement Saturday night following reports that North Korea fired a ballistic missile in what would be its first such test of the year.

In a ballroom at Trump’s south Florida estate, Abe read a brief statement in which he called on the North to comply fully with relevant UN Security Council resolutions. He said Trump has assured him of U.S. support and that Trump’s presence showed the president’s determination and commitment.

Trump followed Abe with even fewer words, saying in part: “I just want everybody to understand and fully know that the United States of America stands behind Japan, its great ally, 100 per cent.”

Missile reportedly flew 500 km, not ICBM

Details of the launch, including the type of missile, were scant.

There was no immediate confirmation from the North, which had recently warned it is ready to test its first intercontinental ballistic missile.

The South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement the projectile was fired from around Banghyon, North Pyongan Province, which is where South Korean officials have said the North test launched its powerful midrange Musudan missile on Oct. 15 and 20.

South Korea Koreas Tension

A man in Seoul watches a TV news program showing a file image of a missile launch conducted by North Korea. Seoul says Pyongyang launched another missile on Sunday. (Ahn Young-joon/Associated Press)

The military in Seoul said that the missile flew about 500 kilometres. But South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported that while determinations are still being made, it was not believed to be an ICBM (Intercontinental ballistic missile).

The missile is believed to have splashed down into the sea between the Korean Peninsula and Japan. Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters the missile did not hit Japanese territorial seas. The North conducted two nuclear tests and a slew of rocket launches last year in continued efforts to expand its nuclear weapons and missile programs. Kim Jong-un said in his New Year’s address that the country has reached the final stages of readiness to test an ICBM, which would be a major step forward in its efforts to build a credible nuclear threat to the United States.

Japan North Korea Koreas Tensions

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters the missile did not hit Japanese territorial seas. (Muneyoshi Someya/Kyodo News via AP)

Though Pyongyang has been relatively quiet about the transfer of power to the Trump administration, its state media has repeatedly called for Washington to abandon its “hostile policy” and vowed to continue its nuclear and missile development programs until the U.S. changes its diplomatic approach.

Seoul vows to ‘punish the North’

Just days ago, it also reaffirmed its plan to conduct more space launches, which it staunchly defends but which have been criticized because they involve duel-use technology that can be transferred to improve missiles.

Kim Dong-yeop, an analyst at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies in Seoul, speculated the projectile could be a Musudan or a similar rocket designed to test engines for an intercontinental ballistic missile that could hit the U.S. mainland. Analysts are divided, however, over how close the North is to having a reliable long-range rocket that could be coupled with a nuclear warhead capable to striking U.S. targets.

South Korea Politics

South Korea’s Acting President and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn vowed to ‘ensure a corresponding response to punish the North.’ (Lee Sang-hack/Yonhap via AP)

South Korea’s Acting President and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn said that his country will punish North Korea for the missile launch. He did not elaborate.

“Our government, in tandem with the international community, is doing its best to ensure a corresponding response to punish the North,” Hwang said.

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