South Korea: North Korea fires ballistic missile off east coast

The response of America's chief diplomat to North Korea's latest missile launch was an abrupt departure from the usual - which may be a turning point, analysts in Asia say.

USA officials said the missile launched on Wednesday appeared to be a liquid-fueled, extended-range Scud missile that only travelled a fraction of its range before spinning out of control.

The constant testing has deepened concern especially in nearby Japan and neighbouring South Korea - and also in Washington over fears that Pyongyang could soon develop a nuclear-armed missile capable of reaching the USA mainland.

Abe also told reporters at his official residence that he was watching to see how China would respond to Pyongyang after President Xi Jinping meets with Trump at the US leader's Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

Scuds are filled with liquid fuel that make them harder to transport and prepare for launch than the more sophisticated solid-fuel rockets that the United States and other nations use.

"The stated goal of the last test was to validate the nuclear weapon design that would arm all of North Korea's missiles", Lewis said of North Korea's September 2016 nuclear test - its fifth and largest to date.

Trump has repeatedly said he wants China to do more to exert its economic influence over its unpredictable ally in Pyongyang to restrain its nuclear and missile programmes but China denies it has any overriding influence on North Korea.

"I've joked before that they don't mind being hated, but they definitely hate to be ignored", Ralph Cossa, president of the Pacific Forum CSIS think tank in Honolulu, said after Wednesday's launch. Many weapons experts say the North could have a functioning nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the continental US within a few years.

Recent outside satellite imagery shows possible preparations for a new atomic test at the North's main nuclear test site, such as the laying of communication cables used to initiate a test and collect data.

Pyongyang is on a quest to develop a long-range missile capable of hitting the United States mainland with a nuclear warhead, and has so far staged five nuclear tests, two of them past year.

North Korea's state media have said the world will soon witness what they called "eventful successes" in the country's space development.

Last month, North Korea fired four ballistic missiles towards the Sea of Japan from the Tongchang-ri region, near the border with China. A February 12 test of a Polaris-2 missile was conducted in the northwest part of the country near the Banghyun Airbase in Northern Pyongan province.

The North's latest missile launch also came during annual military drills between the United States and South Korea. "We have no further comment", US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in the statement.

South Korean officials said McMaster discussed the North's latest missile launch and the Trump-Xi summit in a call with his counterpart in Seoul, Kim Kwan-jin.

North Korea's foreign ministry on Monday assailed Washington for its tough talk and for an ongoing joint military exercise with South Korea and Japan, which Pyongyang sees as a dress rehearsal for invasion.

Wide hartal begins to protest police high-handedness against Jishnu's parents
Alabama Supreme Court allows impeachment of governor to proceed