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North Korea fired a ballistic missile into the sea off its east coast early on Sunday, the first such test since U.S. President Donald Trump was elected, and his administration indicated that Washington would have a calibrated response to avoid escalating tensions.
It was a medium- or intermediate-range missile that landed in the Sea of Japan, according to the U.S. defense department, not an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM), which the North has said it could test at any time.
The launch comes as a test for Trump's vow to get tough on a North Korean regime that last year tested nuclear devices and ballistic missiles at an unprecedented rate in violation of United Nations resolutions.
"This was no surprise," a US govt official has been quoted as saying. "The North Korean leader likes to draw attention at times like this."
A day earlier Trump held a summit meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and said he agreed to work to ensure a strong defence against North Korea's threat. Also Trump had a phone call last week with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
"I just want everybody to understand, and fully know, that the United States of America is behind Japan, our great ally, 100 percent," Trump told reporters in Florida during a joint statement with Abe. He made no further comments.
Abe has called the launch "absolutely intolerable" and said North Korea must comply with U.N. Security Council resolutions.