North Korea test-fires missile in bid to test South, US

North Korea fired a ballistic missile on Sunday in an apparent bid to test the South's new liberal president and the US which have both signalled an interest in negotiations to ease months of tensions.

(AFP) -- The missile flew more than 700 kilometres (435 miles) before landing in the Sea of Japan, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said. The US Pacific Command said it did not appear to be an intercontinental ballistic missile.

New South Korean President Moon Jae-In, who was inaugurated on Wednesday, slammed the test as a "reckless provocation" after holding an emergency meeting with national security advisors.

He said the government strongly condemned this "grave challenge to the peace and security of the Korean peninsula and the international community," his spokesman Yoon Young-Chan said.

Moon, unlike his conservative predecessors, advocates reconciliation with Pyongyang but warned Sunday that dialogue would be possible "only if the North changes its behaviour".

Moon had said in his inauguration speech that he was willing to visit Pyongyang "in the right circumstances" to defuse tensions on the peninsula, with Pyongyang and Washington exchanging hostile rhetoric.

"The North is apparently trying to test Moon and see how his North Korea policy as well as policy coordination between the South and the US will take shape," said Yang Moo-Jin, professor at the University of North Korea Studies in Seoul.

The launch was also aimed at "maximising the North's political leverage" ahead of possible negotiations with the US, as Pyongyang and Washington both recently signalled they were open to talks, he added.

 

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