North Korea launched a ballistic missile Tuesday, days before U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping are scheduled to meet in Florida.
South Korean military officials said the projectile was fired from the North’s Sinpo region and flew about 40 miles before falling into the East Sea, according to South Korea’s Yonhap News. Initial reports from U.S. Pacific Command said the object was likely a medium-range ballistic missile known as a KN-15.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson released a three-sentence statement acknowledging the launch of “yet another intermediate range ballistic missile.” It added: “The United States has spoken enough about North Korea. We have no further comment.”
North Korea’s nuclear program is likely to be a top agenda item when Trump and Xi meet at Trump’s resort in Florida this week. Measures to deal with the hermit nation are likely to cause tension between the two leaders.
“If China is not going to solve North Korea, we will. That is all that I am telling you,” Trump told The Financial Times in an interview published Sunday.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un has been ramping up plans to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the United States, and many test launches have been timed to coincide with international meetings discussing its nuclear program.
North Korea launched a missile in February as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was meeting with Trump at the Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, setting off a diplomatic crisis as the two leaders were eating dinner. Kim personally oversaw the launch of four missiles in March that were fired toward Japan in retaliation for joint military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea.
Tillerson last month said during a visit to Seoul that the U.S. was not open to negotiations with North Korea. The White House would consider taking pre-emptive measures against North Korea “if they elevate the threat of their weapons program,” he said.
“The policy of strategic patience has ended,” Tillerson said.
A more aggressive U.S. policy is likely to clash with that of China, which has long traded with and provided foreign aid to North Korea as the country has struggled under increasingly harsh economic sanctions. The New York Times reports that up to 40 percent of the North’s foreign currency used for trade comes from Chinese companies.
But China has increased efforts to help curb North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. In February, China suspended all imports of coal from North Korea until the end of this year as part of a slew of new United Nations sanctions.
Tuesday’s launch, sure to draw condemnation from the U.N. Security Council, violates international resolutions meant to halt the testing of missiles and nuclear weapons by the North. In January, the U.N. passed what it described as its “toughest ever” sanctions meant to condemn “the country’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles at the expense of its own people’s welfare.”