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South Korea reportedly tests long-range ballistic missile

By AVID TWEED AND RUSSELL WARD | Bloomberg News (Tribune News Service) | Published: April 6, 2017

HONG KONG — South Korea has tested a long-range ballistic missile capable of reaching anywhere in North Korea, Yonhap News reported, a day after its northern neighbor drew condemnation for launching another projectile.

The South Korean missile, with a range of 500 miles, was tested recently and met key flight and accuracy requirements, Yonhap reported on Thursday, citing an unidentified source. A spokesman for South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff declined to comment on the report at a regular briefing in Seoul.

If confirmed, the test risks raising tensions with China, which protested against South Korea’s recent move to allow the U.S. to install an anti-missile system on its territory. South Korea is bolstering its defense capabilities as Kim Jong Un’s regime works toward developing long-range, nuclear-tipped missiles.

“This is Seoul’s first missile with (a 500-mile) range and it will give South Korea the ability to put its launchers in the south out of range of North Korean missiles,” said Michael Cole, senior non-resident fellow at the University of Nottingham’s China Policy Institute in Taipei. “The thought of any country in Asia that can fire a missile that can come close to China’s border is never going to be welcomed by Chinese leadership.”

At the same time, Cole added that China is more concerned about the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, or Thaad, than South Korea’s missile development because the shield could “at some point play a role in interfering with China’s ability to fire its own missiles.”

South Korea has been developing ballistic missiles with a 500-mile range since 2012, the Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesman said. The nation agreed with the U.S. that year to extend the maximum range of its missiles from 185 miles.

The report on the missile test comes as U.S. President Donald Trump meets with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in Florida later Thursday and Friday for the first time to discuss a range of issues including North Korea.

Trump spoke by phone about North Korea’s missile test earlier with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Abe said the president stressed that “all options” are on the table for dealing with the threat from Kim’s regime.

In a separate phone conversation between South Korea’s National Security Council Chairman Kim Kwan-jin and U.S. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, the two countries agreed to seek ways to strengthen sanctions against North Korea for its missile test, according to a presidential Blue House statement Thursday.

©2017 Bloomberg News
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A man watches a TV news program reporting about North Korea's missile firing using file footage, at Seoul Train Station in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, April 6, 2017. South Korea on Thursday tested a long-range ballistic missile capable of reaching anywhere in North Korea, Yonhap News reported, a day after its northern neighbor drew condemnation for launching another projectile.
LEE JIN-MAN/AP

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