Abe praises Trump's security commitment after call on Syria, N Korea

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The backpacks were strapped to marching North Korean soldiers in a past parade and could be used to spray radioactive material, according to experts.

While the timing was largely coincidental, the fact that US President Donald Trump ordered the strike while hosting a summit with Chinese leader Xi Jinping carried particular resonance given that the North's nuclear ambitions - and how best to thwart them - was among the top agenda items of their meeting.

USA considers far-reaching steps for 'extreme vetting'. "China summit, while at the same time it was to check its missile capability", a South Korean official told Reuters about the military's initial assessment of the launch.

"The two options have been on the long list of possible options for a long time and they have generally been found to have far too many downsides", Stephens said. The North has defied the ban, saying it infringes on its sovereign rights to self-defense and the pursuit of space exploration.

He condemned the launch and pledged to "file a grave protest against North Korea".

The KN-15 medium-range ballistic missile flew around 40 miles (60 kilometers), South Korea´s defense ministry said. He called a meeting of the country's National Security Council.

Adding to the barrage of cautionary language aimed at Pyongyang, Tillerson framed the Syria missile strike as a more general warning against worldwide outliers, even those whose actions did not pose a direct security threat to the U.S. "We have no further comment", US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in the statement.

"The military is keeping a close watch over North Korea's provocative moves and maintaining a high defence posture", it said.

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"Certainly, we do not want for things to get to a military conflict".

Active U.S. involvement disincentivizes such cooperation and encourages polarization instead.

He said: "He confirmed to us what others had been claiming, that North Korea could have a nuclear tipped ICBM (Intercontinental ballistic missile) ready to hit the mainland of the United States by the end of President Trump's first term in office - that is 2020". An article published online Wednesday by the Workers' Party newspaper Rodong Sinmun stressed that the North has obtained various miniaturized nuclear weapons, including hydrogen bombs, and the means to deploy them.

China is North Korea's economic lifeline and as such enjoys more leverage over its maverick neighbour than any other country.

Unlike a liquid-fuel missile that takes time to erect and fuel, activities which "we can watch", mobile solid-fuel weapons are more hard to track, he said.

The tensions between Japan and North Korea have increased following a number of successful mid-range missile launches by North Korea in March, one of which fell about 200 km off the Japanese coast. Moving more weapons to the Korean peninsula has been on the table since the US, under President George H.W. Bush, pulled its nukes from South Korea in 1991 to persuade North Korea to let global inspectors into its nuclear plants and re-energize diplomatic talks.

The statement read: "North Korea launched yet another intermediate-range ballistic missile".

Earlier this month North Korea tested a liquid-fueled Scud missile which only traveled a fraction of its range.