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This undated picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on September 16, 2017 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un inspecting a launching drill. AFP photo

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North Korea launched a missile that landed close to Japan on Wednesday, the first since mid-September, and the Pentagon said its initial assessment was that Pyongyang had tested an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

North Korea fired the missile a week after U.S. President Donald Trump put North Korea back on a U.S list of countries that Washington says support terrorism. The designation allows the United States to impose more sanctions, although some experts said it risked inflaming tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

Pentagon spokesman Col. Robert Manning said the Pentagon’s initial assessment was an ICBM launched from Sain Ni in North Korea and traveled about 1,000 km before splashing down in the Sea of Japan. The missile did not pose a threat to the United States its territories or allies, the Pentagon said.

Japan’s government estimated that the missile flew for about 50 minutes and landed in the sea in Japan’s exclusive economic zone, Japanese broadcaster NHK said. A North Korean missile on Aug. 29 was airborne for 14 minutes over Japan.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said Wednesday’s missile was fired from Pyongsong, a city in South Pyongan Province, at around 1817 GMT over the sea between South Korea and Japan. The South Korean military said the missile had an altitude of around 4,500 km and flew 960 km.

Minutes after the North fired the missile, South Korea’s military conducted a missile-firing test in response, the South Korean military said.

Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said the missile reached an estimated altitude of 4,000 kilometres and broke up before landing in Japan’s exclusive economic zone. He said it was judged to be ICBM class given the missile’s lofted trajectory.

Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported three projectiles were fired, the nearest landing 210 kilometres west of Japan’s northern mainland, suggesting the missile broke into pieces.

Japan’s Kyodo news agency, quoting the defense ministry, said there were no reports of any damage.

The White House said Trump was briefed while the missile was still in the air.

U.S. stocks pared gains after reports of the missile launch.

The S&P 500 index was up half a percent in midafternoon.

Two U.S. government sources said earlier that U.S. government experts believed North Korea could conduct a new missile test within days.

After firing missiles at a rate of about two or three a month since April, North Korea paused its missile launches in late September, after it fired a missile that passed over Japan’s northern Hokkaido island on Sept. 15.

The U.S. officials who spoke earlier declined to say what type of missile they thought North Korea might test, but noted that Pyongyang had been working to develop nuclear-tipped missiles capable of hitting the United States and had already tested inter-continental ballistic missiles.

Last week, North Korea denounced Trump’s decision to relist it as a state sponsor of terrorism, calling it a “serious provocation and violent infringement.”

(FRANCE24)

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