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SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea fired a ballistic missile from a submarine on Saturday but it appears to have failed soon after launch, South Korea’s military said.

The launch comes at the end of a week of sharply rising tensions on the peninsula. It is only a day after the U.S. and South Korea pledged to deploy an advanced anti-missile system to counter threats from Pyongyang, and two days after North Korea warned it was planning its toughest response to what it deemed a “declaration of war” by the United States.

That followed Washington’s blacklisting of the isolated state’s leader Kim Jong Un for alleged human rights abuses.

The South’s Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that the missile was launched at about 11:30 a.m. Seoul time (0230 GMT) in waters east of the Korean peninsula.

The missile was likely fired from a submarine as planned but appears to have failed in the early stage of flight, the Joint Chiefs said.

Neighboring Japan, the United States, and South Korea’s military condemned the missile launch as a flagrant violation of U.N. sanctions.

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said the missile’s engine successfully ignited but the projectile soon exploded in mid-air at a height of about 10 km (6 miles), and covered not more than a few kilometers across the water.

The South’s military declined to confirm those details citing its policy of not publicly commenting on intelligence matters.

The missile was detected in the sea southeast of the North Korean city of Sinpo, South Korea’s military said. Satellite images indicate Pyongyang is actively trying to develop its submarine-launched ballistic missile program in this area, according to experts.

The U.S. Strategic Command, whose mission is to detect and prevent strategic attacks against the United States and its allies, said it had detected what it believed was a KN-11 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM).

It was fired from North Korea’s east coast port of Sinpo and then fell into the sea between there and Japan, the command said in a statement.

ABE CONDEMNS

Reclusive North Korea and the rich, democratic South are technically still at war because their 1950-53 conflict ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty. The North regularly threatens to destroy the Japan, South Korea and the South’s main ally, the United States.

The missile launch is a “clear challenge to U.N. Security Council resolutions,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Saturday, according to Kyodo news agency.

“We should strongly condemn the launch by working with the international community,” Abe told reporters.

Abe said the launch did not gravely affect Japan’s national security.

The U.S. said it was monitoring and assessing the situation in close coordination with its regional allies and partners.

“We strongly condemn North Korea’s missile test in violation of UN Security Council Resolutions, which explicitly prohibit North Korea’s use of ballistic missile technology,” said Gabrielle Price, spokeswoman for the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.

“These actions, and North Korea’s continued pursuit of ballistic missile and nuclear weapons capabilities, pose a significant threat to the United States, our allies, and to the stability of the greater Asia-Pacific,” she added.

The North has conducted a string of military tests that began in January with its fourth nuclear test and included the launch of a long-range rocket the following month.

The U.N. Security Council imposed harsh new sanctions on the country in March for its nuclear test and rocket launch.

North Korea rejects the sanctions as infringement of its sovereignty and its right to space exploration.

Late last month, North Korea launched what appeared to be an intermediate-range missile to a high altitude before it plunged into the sea after covering 400 km in the direction of Japan, SouthKorean military officials said. That was widely seen as a technological advance for the isolated state after several test failures.

South Korea and the United States said on Friday they would deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system with the U.S. military in South Korea to counter the threat from nuclear-armed North Korea, drawing a sharp and swift protest from neighboring China, Pyongyang’s sole major ally.

China’s foreign minister said on Saturday that THAAD exceeded the security needs of the Korean peninsula. “We have every reason, and the right, to question the real conspiracy behind this move,” Wang Yi was quoted by the state news agency Xinhua as saying during a trip to Sri Lanka.

Pyongyang last conducted a test of a submarine-launched ballistic missile in April, calling it a “great success” that provided “one more means for powerful nuclear attack,” although it had not had a successful SLBM test flight.

A report on 38 North, a website run by the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University in the U.S., said in May that North Korea’s submarine-launched ballistic missile program is making progress, but it was unlikely to become operational before 2020.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Warsaw, U.S. Army General Curtis Scaparrotti, the top NATO commander and former commander of U.S. forces in South Korea, said he worried about North Korea’s potential to hit the continental United States with a ballistic missile.

“Kim Jong Un and his regime continue to test and work on their ballistic missile capability, and with every launch they’re getting better and they’re working out their problems,” Scaparrotti said. “It’s a serious threat.”

(Additional reporting by Jack Kim in SEOUL, Taiga Uranaka in TOKYO, John Ruwitch in SHANGHAI and Yeganeh Torbati in WARSAW; Editing by Ed Davies and Martin Howell)

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North Korea fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile on Saturday but the launch appears to have failed in the early stages of flight, South Korea’s military said.

The launch comes a day after the U.S. and South Korea pledged to deploy an anti-missile system to counter threats from Pyongyang, and two days after North Korea warned it was planning its toughest response to what it deemed a “declaration of war” by the United States. That followed Washington’s blacklisting of the nation’s leader Kim Jong Un for alleged human rights abuses.

A single missile, presumed to be a SLBM, was launched off southeastern shore off Shinpo, Hamkyung Namdo located in northern North Korea at around 11:30 am Seoul time, according to a statement from the South Korea Ministry of National Defense.

RELATED: U.S., South Korea to Deploy Missile Defense Shield

“We can confirm that North Korea succeeded in launching off from the submarine but the ballistic missile failed in the initial part of flying,” a military officer from South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense told NBC News.

The North has conducted a string of military tests that began in January with its fourth nuclear test and included the launch of a long-range rocket the following month.

“We strongly condemn North Korea’s continued military provocation, which includes its Musudan mid-range ballistic missile launch in last June 22, which is a blatant violation of the UN resolutions,” the officer said.

The U.N. Security Council imposed harsh new sanctions on the country in response to North Korea’s fourth nuclear test and the long-range rocket.

RELATED: U.S. Blacklists Kim Jong Un Over Human Rights Abuses

“North Korea have achieved a measurable success in mastering technology for mid-range ballistic missiles, that can reach Guam, with nuclear payload through its sixth attempt and likewise, they will continue to test launch SLBM until they get it,” Dr. Koh Yuwhan, a professor at North Korean studies at Dongguk University in Seoul, said.

“But, at the same time, North Korea is saying I am going my way regardless of whatever you do as if they are heading towards the endgame,” Koh said.

South Korea and the United States said on Friday they would deploy an advanced missile defense system in South Korea to counter the threat from nuclear-armed North Korea, drawing a sharp and swift protest from neighboring China, Pyongyang’s sole major ally.

Pyongyang also conducted a test of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) in April, calling it a “great success” that provided “one more means for powerful nuclear attack”.

A report on 38 North, a website run by the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University in the U.S., said in May that North Korea’s submarine-launched ballistic missile program is making progress, but it appeared that the first ballistic missile submarine and operational missiles are unlikely to become operational before 2020.

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North Korea launched what appeared to be an intermediate-range missile on Wednesday to a high altitude in the direction of Japan before it plunged into the sea, military officials said, a technological advance for the isolated state after several test failures.

The launch came about two hours after a similar test failed, South Korea’s military said, and covered 400 km (250 miles), more than halfway towards the southwest coast of Japan’s main island of Honshu.

The launches and earlier nuclear tests show continued defiance of international warnings and a series of U.N. Security Council resolutions and sanctions, which North Korea rejects as an infringement of its sovereignty.

Japanese Defence Minister Gen Nakatani said the second missile reached an altitude of 1,000 km (620 miles), indicating North Korea had made progress.

“We don’t know whether it counts as a success, but North Korea has shown some capability with IRBMs (intermediate range ballistic missiles),” he told reporters in Tokyo.

“The threat to Japan is intensifying.”

Reclusive North Korea and the rich, democratic South are technically still at war because their 1950-53 conflict ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty. The North regularly threatens to destroy the Japan, South Korea and the South’s main ally, the United States.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye denounced the test.

“The North Korean regime must realize that complete isolation and self-destruction await at the end of reckless provocation,” she said.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also decried North Korea’s “provocative actions”.

“I strongly condemn the launch by North Korea of two ballistic missiles,” Stoltenberg said in a statement.

“These repeated provocative actions … undermine international security and dialogue,” he said, calling for North Korea to “fully comply with its obligations under international law, not to threaten with or conduct any launches using ballistic missile technology and to refrain from any further provocative actions”.

The first missile was launched from the east coast city of Wonsan, a South Korean official said, the same area where previous tests of intermediate-range missiles were conducted, possibly using mobile launchers.

FIFTH STRAIGHT FAILURE

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency, quoting a government official, said the first missile disintegrated mid-air after a flight of about 150 km (95 miles).

Wednesday’s first launch was the fifth straight unsuccessful attempt in the past two months to launch a missile that is designed to fly more than 3,000 km (1,800 miles) and could theoretically reach any part of Japan and the U.S. territory of Guam.

Jeffrey Lewis, of the California-based Middlebury Institute of International Studies, said missiles were usually fired at a certain angle to maximize range, so the high altitude of the second launch may have been chosen to avoid Japanese airspace.

“That suggests the missile worked perfectly,” Lewis said. “Had it been fired at its normal angle, it would have flown to its full range.”

Lewis said failures were a normal part of testing and that North Korea would fix problems with the Musudan intermediate-range missile sooner or later.

“If North Korea continues testing, eventually its missileers will use the same technology in a missile that can threaten the United States,” Lewis told Reuters.

Nakatani said North Korea’s repeated missile launches were a “serious provocation” and could not be tolerated.

Japan indicated after the first launch that it would protest strongly because it violated U.N. resolutions, even though the launches posed no immediate threat to Japanese security.

In Seoul, South Korea’s presidential office said a national security meeting was convened to discuss the latest missile launches.

LONGER-RANGE ROCKETS

The U.S. military detected the two missiles, most likely Musudan, from North Korea, the U.S. military’s Pacific Command said. A Pentagon spokesman said both missiles fell into the Sea of Japan. North Korea is believed to have up to 30 Musudan missiles, according to South Korean media, which officials said were first deployed around 2007, although the North had never attempted to test-fire them until April.

While North Korea has developed potential longer-range rockets, such as its 30-metre (98 ft) Unha-3, a home-grown three-stage rocket based on 1950s Soviet Scud missile technology, it needs to be fueled from a fixed launch pad making it easy to detect and impractical as a weapon.

A smaller, powerful intermediate missile that is easier to deploy on a mobile launcher poses a harder threat to counter.

The U.N. Security Council, backed by the North’s main diplomatic ally, China, imposed tough new sanctions in March after North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test in January and launched a long-range rocket that put an object into space orbit.

“At present, the situation on the peninsula remains very complex and severe. We think that the relevant party should avoid doing anything to further worsen tensions,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters at a regular press briefing on Wednesday.

North Korea has conducted a series of tests since then that it claimed showed progress in nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missile capabilities, including new rocket engines and simulated atmospheric re-entry.

(Additional reporting by James Pearson in SEOUL, Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali in WASHINGTON, Nobuhiro Kubo and Linda Sieg in TOKYO and Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Writing by Jack Kim; Editing by Paul Tait, Tony Munroe and Nick Macfie)

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North Korea launched what appeared to be an intermediate-range missile on Wednesday to a high altitude in the direction of Japan before it plunged into the sea, military officials said, a technological advance for the isolated state after several test failures.

The launch came about two hours after a similar test failed, South Korea’s military said, and covered 400 km (250 miles), more than halfway towards the southwest coast of Japan’s main island of Honshu.

The launches and earlier nuclear tests show continued defiance of international warnings and a series of U.N. Security Council resolutions and sanctions, which North Korea rejects as an infringement of its sovereignty.

Japanese Defence Minister Gen Nakatani said the second missile reached an altitude of 1,000 km (620 miles), indicating North Korea had made progress.

“We don’t know whether it counts as a success, but North Korea has shown some capability with IRBMs (intermediate range ballistic missiles),” he told reporters in Tokyo.

“The threat to Japan is intensifying.”

Reclusive North Korea and the rich, democratic South are technically still at war because their 1950-53 conflict ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty. The North regularly threatens to destroy the Japan, South Korea and the South’s main ally, the United States.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye denounced the test.

“The North Korean regime must realize that complete isolation and self-destruction await at the end of reckless provocation,” she said.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also decried North Korea’s “provocative actions”.

“I strongly condemn the launch by North Korea of two ballistic missiles,” Stoltenberg said in a statement.

“These repeated provocative actions … undermine international security and dialogue,” he said, calling for North Korea to “fully comply with its obligations under international law, not to threaten with or conduct any launches using ballistic missile technology and to refrain from any further provocative actions”.

The first missile was launched from the east coast city of Wonsan, a South Korean official said, the same area where previous tests of intermediate-range missiles were conducted, possibly using mobile launchers.

FIFTH STRAIGHT FAILURE

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency, quoting a government official, said the first missile disintegrated mid-air after a flight of about 150 km (95 miles).

Wednesday’s first launch was the fifth straight unsuccessful attempt in the past two months to launch a missile that is designed to fly more than 3,000 km (1,800 miles) and could theoretically reach any part of Japan and the U.S. territory of Guam.

Jeffrey Lewis, of the California-based Middlebury Institute of International Studies, said missiles were usually fired at a certain angle to maximize range, so the high altitude of the second launch may have been chosen to avoid Japanese airspace.

“That suggests the missile worked perfectly,” Lewis said. “Had it been fired at its normal angle, it would have flown to its full range.”

Lewis said failures were a normal part of testing and that North Korea would fix problems with the Musudan intermediate-range missile sooner or later.

“If North Korea continues testing, eventually its missileers will use the same technology in a missile that can threaten the United States,” Lewis told Reuters.

Nakatani said North Korea’s repeated missile launches were a “serious provocation” and could not be tolerated.

Japan indicated after the first launch that it would protest strongly because it violated U.N. resolutions, even though the launches posed no immediate threat to Japanese security.

In Seoul, South Korea’s presidential office said a national security meeting was convened to discuss the latest missile launches.

LONGER-RANGE ROCKETS

The U.S. military detected the two missiles, most likely Musudan, from North Korea, the U.S. military’s Pacific Command said. A Pentagon spokesman said both missiles fell into the Sea of Japan. North Korea is believed to have up to 30 Musudan missiles, according to South Korean media, which officials said were first deployed around 2007, although the North had never attempted to test-fire them until April.

While North Korea has developed potential longer-range rockets, such as its 30-metre (98 ft) Unha-3, a home-grown three-stage rocket based on 1950s Soviet Scud missile technology, it needs to be fueled from a fixed launch pad making it easy to detect and impractical as a weapon.

A smaller, powerful intermediate missile that is easier to deploy on a mobile launcher poses a harder threat to counter.

The U.N. Security Council, backed by the North’s main diplomatic ally, China, imposed tough new sanctions in March after North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test in January and launched a long-range rocket that put an object into space orbit.

“At present, the situation on the peninsula remains very complex and severe. We think that the relevant party should avoid doing anything to further worsen tensions,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters at a regular press briefing on Wednesday.

North Korea has conducted a series of tests since then that it claimed showed progress in nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missile capabilities, including new rocket engines and simulated atmospheric re-entry.

(Additional reporting by James Pearson in SEOUL, Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali in WASHINGTON, Nobuhiro Kubo and Linda Sieg in TOKYO and Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Writing by Jack Kim; Editing by Paul Tait, Tony Munroe and Nick Macfie)

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North Korea launched what appeared to be an intermediate-range missile on Wednesday to a high altitude in the direction of Japan before it plunged into the sea, military officials said, a technological advance for the isolated state after several test failures.

The launch came about two hours after a similar test failed, South Korea’s military said, and covered 400 km (250 miles), more than halfway towards the southwest coast of Japan’s main island of Honshu.

The launches and earlier nuclear tests show continued defiance of international warnings and a series of U.N. Security Council resolutions and sanctions, which North Korea rejects as an infringement of its sovereignty.

Japanese Defence Minister Gen Nakatani said the second missile reached an altitude of 1,000 km (620 miles), indicating North Korea had made progress.

“We don’t know whether it counts as a success, but North Korea has shown some capability with IRBMs (intermediate range ballistic missiles),” he told reporters in Tokyo.

“The threat to Japan is intensifying.”

Reclusive North Korea and the rich, democratic South are technically still at war because their 1950-53 conflict ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty. The North regularly threatens to destroy the Japan, South Korea and the South’s main ally, the United States.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye denounced the test.

“The North Korean regime must realize that complete isolation and self-destruction await at the end of reckless provocation,” she said.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also decried North Korea’s “provocative actions”.

“I strongly condemn the launch by North Korea of two ballistic missiles,” Stoltenberg said in a statement.

“These repeated provocative actions … undermine international security and dialogue,” he said, calling for North Korea to “fully comply with its obligations under international law, not to threaten with or conduct any launches using ballistic missile technology and to refrain from any further provocative actions”.

The first missile was launched from the east coast city of Wonsan, a South Korean official said, the same area where previous tests of intermediate-range missiles were conducted, possibly using mobile launchers.

FIFTH STRAIGHT FAILURE

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency, quoting a government official, said the first missile disintegrated mid-air after a flight of about 150 km (95 miles).

Wednesday’s first launch was the fifth straight unsuccessful attempt in the past two months to launch a missile that is designed to fly more than 3,000 km (1,800 miles) and could theoretically reach any part of Japan and the U.S. territory of Guam.

Jeffrey Lewis, of the California-based Middlebury Institute of International Studies, said missiles were usually fired at a certain angle to maximize range, so the high altitude of the second launch may have been chosen to avoid Japanese airspace.

“That suggests the missile worked perfectly,” Lewis said. “Had it been fired at its normal angle, it would have flown to its full range.”

Lewis said failures were a normal part of testing and that North Korea would fix problems with the Musudan intermediate-range missile sooner or later.

“If North Korea continues testing, eventually its missileers will use the same technology in a missile that can threaten the United States,” Lewis told Reuters.

Nakatani said North Korea’s repeated missile launches were a “serious provocation” and could not be tolerated.

Japan indicated after the first launch that it would protest strongly because it violated U.N. resolutions, even though the launches posed no immediate threat to Japanese security.

In Seoul, South Korea’s presidential office said a national security meeting was convened to discuss the latest missile launches.

LONGER-RANGE ROCKETS

The U.S. military detected the two missiles, most likely Musudan, from North Korea, the U.S. military’s Pacific Command said. A Pentagon spokesman said both missiles fell into the Sea of Japan. North Korea is believed to have up to 30 Musudan missiles, according to South Korean media, which officials said were first deployed around 2007, although the North had never attempted to test-fire them until April.

While North Korea has developed potential longer-range rockets, such as its 30-metre (98 ft) Unha-3, a home-grown three-stage rocket based on 1950s Soviet Scud missile technology, it needs to be fueled from a fixed launch pad making it easy to detect and impractical as a weapon.

A smaller, powerful intermediate missile that is easier to deploy on a mobile launcher poses a harder threat to counter.

The U.N. Security Council, backed by the North’s main diplomatic ally, China, imposed tough new sanctions in March after North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test in January and launched a long-range rocket that put an object into space orbit.

“At present, the situation on the peninsula remains very complex and severe. We think that the relevant party should avoid doing anything to further worsen tensions,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters at a regular press briefing on Wednesday.

North Korea has conducted a series of tests since then that it claimed showed progress in nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missile capabilities, including new rocket engines and simulated atmospheric re-entry.

(Additional reporting by James Pearson in SEOUL, Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali in WASHINGTON, Nobuhiro Kubo and Linda Sieg in TOKYO and Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Writing by Jack Kim; Editing by Paul Tait, Tony Munroe and Nick Macfie)

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North Korea launched what appeared to be an intermediate-range missile on Wednesday to a high altitude in the direction of Japan before it plunged into the sea, military officials said, a technological advance for the isolated state after several test failures.

The launch came about two hours after a similar test failed, South Korea’s military said, and covered 400 km (250 miles), more than halfway towards the southwest coast of Japan’s main island of Honshu.

The launches and earlier nuclear tests show continued defiance of international warnings and a series of U.N. Security Council resolutions and sanctions, which North Korea rejects as an infringement of its sovereignty.

Japanese Defence Minister Gen Nakatani said the second missile reached an altitude of 1,000 km (620 miles), indicating North Korea had made progress.

“We don’t know whether it counts as a success, but North Korea has shown some capability with IRBMs (intermediate range ballistic missiles),” he told reporters in Tokyo.

“The threat to Japan is intensifying.”

Reclusive North Korea and the rich, democratic South are technically still at war because their 1950-53 conflict ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty. The North regularly threatens to destroy the Japan, South Korea and the South’s main ally, the United States.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye denounced the test.

“The North Korean regime must realize that complete isolation and self-destruction await at the end of reckless provocation,” she said.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also decried North Korea’s “provocative actions”.

“I strongly condemn the launch by North Korea of two ballistic missiles,” Stoltenberg said in a statement.

“These repeated provocative actions … undermine international security and dialogue,” he said, calling for North Korea to “fully comply with its obligations under international law, not to threaten with or conduct any launches using ballistic missile technology and to refrain from any further provocative actions”.

The first missile was launched from the east coast city of Wonsan, a South Korean official said, the same area where previous tests of intermediate-range missiles were conducted, possibly using mobile launchers.

FIFTH STRAIGHT FAILURE

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency, quoting a government official, said the first missile disintegrated mid-air after a flight of about 150 km (95 miles).

Wednesday’s first launch was the fifth straight unsuccessful attempt in the past two months to launch a missile that is designed to fly more than 3,000 km (1,800 miles) and could theoretically reach any part of Japan and the U.S. territory of Guam.

Jeffrey Lewis, of the California-based Middlebury Institute of International Studies, said missiles were usually fired at a certain angle to maximize range, so the high altitude of the second launch may have been chosen to avoid Japanese airspace.

“That suggests the missile worked perfectly,” Lewis said. “Had it been fired at its normal angle, it would have flown to its full range.”

Lewis said failures were a normal part of testing and that North Korea would fix problems with the Musudan intermediate-range missile sooner or later.

“If North Korea continues testing, eventually its missileers will use the same technology in a missile that can threaten the United States,” Lewis told Reuters.

Nakatani said North Korea’s repeated missile launches were a “serious provocation” and could not be tolerated.

Japan indicated after the first launch that it would protest strongly because it violated U.N. resolutions, even though the launches posed no immediate threat to Japanese security.

In Seoul, South Korea’s presidential office said a national security meeting was convened to discuss the latest missile launches.

LONGER-RANGE ROCKETS

The U.S. military detected the two missiles, most likely Musudan, from North Korea, the U.S. military’s Pacific Command said. A Pentagon spokesman said both missiles fell into the Sea of Japan. North Korea is believed to have up to 30 Musudan missiles, according to South Korean media, which officials said were first deployed around 2007, although the North had never attempted to test-fire them until April.

While North Korea has developed potential longer-range rockets, such as its 30-metre (98 ft) Unha-3, a home-grown three-stage rocket based on 1950s Soviet Scud missile technology, it needs to be fueled from a fixed launch pad making it easy to detect and impractical as a weapon.

A smaller, powerful intermediate missile that is easier to deploy on a mobile launcher poses a harder threat to counter.

The U.N. Security Council, backed by the North’s main diplomatic ally, China, imposed tough new sanctions in March after North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test in January and launched a long-range rocket that put an object into space orbit.

“At present, the situation on the peninsula remains very complex and severe. We think that the relevant party should avoid doing anything to further worsen tensions,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters at a regular press briefing on Wednesday.

North Korea has conducted a series of tests since then that it claimed showed progress in nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missile capabilities, including new rocket engines and simulated atmospheric re-entry.

(Additional reporting by James Pearson in SEOUL, Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali in WASHINGTON, Nobuhiro Kubo and Linda Sieg in TOKYO and Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Writing by Jack Kim; Editing by Paul Tait, Tony Munroe and Nick Macfie)

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North Korea launched what appeared to be a second intermediate-range Musudan missile on Wednesday that flew about 400 km (250 miles), in what appeared to be its most effective test yet, hours after another launch failed, South Korea’s military said.

It was not immediately clear if the second Musudan launch, about two hours after the first, was considered a success or failure, or how the flight ended. However, the distance it covered was theoretically more than halfway towards the southwest coast of Japan’s main Honshu island.

The missile reached an altitude of 1,000 km (620 miles), indicating North Korea had made progress in its missile programs, Japan’s Minister of Defence Gen Nakatani said.

“The threat to Japan is intensifying,” Nakatani told reporters in Tokyo.

The first missile was launched from the east coast city of Wonsan, a South Korean official said, the same area where previous tests of intermediate-range missiles were conducted, possibly using mobile launchers.

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency, quoting a government official, said it disintegrated mid-air after a flight of about 150 km (95 miles).

The launches were in continued defiance of international warnings and a series of U.N. Security Council resolutions that ban the North from using ballistic missile technology, which Pyongyang rejects as an infringement of its sovereignty.

Wednesday’s first launch would have been the fifth straight unsuccessful attempt in the past two months to launch a missile that is designed to fly more than 3,000 km (1,800 miles) and could theoretically reach any part of Japan and the U.S. territory of Guam.

Jeffrey Lewis of the California-based Middlebury Institute of International Studies said missiles are usually fired at a certain angle to maximize range, so the high altitude of the second launch may have been chosen deliberately to avoid Japanese airspace.

“That suggests the missile worked perfectly,” Lewis said. “Had it been fired at its normal angle, it would have flown to its full range.”

Lewis said failures were a normal part of testing and that North Korea would fix problems with the Musudan sooner or later.

“If North Korea continues testing, eventually its missileers will use the same technology in a missile that can threaten the United States,” Lewis told Reuters.

SERIOUS PROVOCATION

Nakatani said North Korea’s repeated missile launches were a “serious provocation” and could not be tolerated.

Japan indicated after the first launch that it would protest strongly because it violated a United Nations resolution, even though the launches posed no immediate threat to Japanese security.

In Seoul, South Korea’s presidential office said a national security meeting would be convened later on Wednesday to discuss the latest missile launches.

The U.S. military detected the two missiles, most likely Musudan, from North Korea, the U.S. military’s Pacific Command said. A Pentagon spokesman said both missiles fell into the Sea of Japan.

Yonhap, citing an unidentified government source, said on Tuesday the North had been seen moving an intermediate-range missile to its east coast. Japan put its military on alert in response.

North Korea is believed to have up to 30 Musudan missiles, according to South Korean media, which officials said were first deployed around 2007, although the North had never attempted to test-fire them until April.

The U.N. Security Council, backed by the North’s main diplomatic ally, China, imposed tough new sanctions in March after the isolated state conducted its fourth nuclear test in January and launched a long-range rocket that put an object into space orbit.

North Korea has conducted a series of tests since then that it claimed showed progress in nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missile capabilities, including new rocket engines and simulated atmospheric re-entry.

The two Koreas technically remain in a state of war after the 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.

A spokesman for South Korea’s Unification Ministry said North Korea should channel its efforts into the welfare of its people and peace on the Korean peninsula rather than developing its missile technology.

(Additional reporting by James Pearson, Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali in WASHINGTON and Tim Kelly, Nobuhiro Kubo and Linda Sieg in TOKYO; Writing by Jack Kim; Editing by Paul Tait)

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A North Carolina father has written an open letter to the dad of the former Stanford University athlete whose sexual assault case has stirred up intense debate, and his poignant message in the letter has gone viral.

Brock Turner, 20, was found guilty in March of three felonies — assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated/unconscious person, penetration of an intoxicated person and penetration of an unconscious person. Last week the former student and swimmer was sentenced to six months in jail and three years of probation by Judge Aaron Perksy. That sentence, which many critics say was too lenient, has provoked outrage against the judge.

Before his son’s sentencing, Dan Turner wrote a letter to the judge pleading for leniency.

“As it stands now, Brock’s life has been deeply altered forever by the events of Jan. 17th and 18th. He will never be his happy-go-lucky self with that easygoing personality and welcoming smile. His every waking minute is consumed with worry, anxiety, fear and depression,” Dan Turner wrote. “His life will never be the one that he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve. That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20-plus years of life.”

He asked that his son be given probation and said that he is “totally committed to educating other college-age students about the dangers of alcohol consumption and sexual promiscuity.”

Dan Turner’s words outraged many people across the nation, including John Pavlovitz, a pastor, blogger and father in Wake Forest, North Carolina. In a blog post titled “To Brock Turner’s Father, From Another Father,” Pavlovitz writes that “there is no scenario where your son should be the sympathetic figure here.”

“I need you to understand something, and I say this as a father who dearly loves my son as much as you must love yours. Brock is not the victim here. His victim is the victim. She is the wounded one. He is the damager,” Pavlovitz wrote in the blog post. “This young woman will be dealing with this for far longer than the embarrassingly short six months your son is being penalized. She will endure the unthinkable trauma of his ‘20 minutes of action’ for the duration of her lifetime, and the fact that you seem unaware of this fact is exactly why we have a problem.”

His blog has been flooded with readers. Pavlovitz wrote on Twitter on Wednesday that the “site is overwhelmed” and asked visitors to “keep refreshing if you get errors.”

In a statement issued Tuesday to CNN, Dan Turner said people had misinterpreted the phrase “20 minutes of action.” “What I meant with that comment is a 20-minute period of time. I was not referring to sexual activity by the word ‘action.’ It was an unfortunate choice of words, and I did not mean to be disrespectful or offensive to anyone,” Dan Turner said.

He could not be immediately reached by ABC News for comment in response to Pavlovitz’s letter.

Pavlovitz said he doesn’t think Brock Turner is a “monster” but believes he still must face the consequences because “he acted like one.”

“Brock has to register as a sex offender because he sexually assaulted an incapacitated young woman. This is why we have such requirements; because one vile act against another human being is one too many,” he wrote. “It feels like you want more sympathy and goodwill toward your son than you want for the survivor of his crime, and that’s simply not good enough for her or for those young men and women watching.”

Pavlovitz included a link to an emotional, 12-page letter written by Brock Turner’s unidentified victim, in which she directly addresses her attacker.

“If you think I was spared, came out unscathed, that today I ride off into sunset, while you suffer the greatest blow, you are mistaken. Nobody wins. We have all been devastated, we have all been trying to find some meaning in all of this suffering,” the woman, now 23, read in court last week from her victim impact statement, according to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office.

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Story highlights

  • Debris about 150 nautical miles north of Egypt’s coast, EgyptAir official says
  • The plane “swerved and then plunged,” Greece’s defense minister says
The debris was about 150 nautical miles north of the Egyptian coast, Adel said. He did not elaborate on the location or condition of the wreckage but said the search and rescue operation was “turning into a search and recovery” mission.
Earlier, a spokesman for Greece’s Hellenic National Defense General Staff had said crew aboard an Egyptian search aircraft had spotted two floating objects 210 nautical miles southeast of Crete. It’s unclear whether those objects are part of the wreckage described by Adel.
The Airbus A320 carrying 66 passengers and crew disappeared early Thursday over the Mediterranean Sea as it flew from Paris to Cairo.
Speculation has centered on the possibility of a terrorist attack.
“Planes today just don’t fall out of the sky,” CNN aviation analyst Miles O’Brien said.
Egyptian Civil Aviation Minister Sharif Fathi said technical failures and terror are both possible explanations.
“But if you analyze this situation properly, the possibility of having a different action aboard, of having a terror attack, is higher than having a technical problem,” Fathi said.

Latest developments

— Debris believed from EgyptAir Flight 804 found near the Greek island of Karpathos includes life jackets and plastic materials, the airline said.
— Maintenance checks on the plane had been done on time and “no snags were reported,” Adel told Amanpour.
— Checks of the passenger manifest have so far resulted in no hits on terror watch lists, officials with knowledge of the investigation told CNN.
— U.S. government officials are operating on an initial theory that the plane was taken down by a bomb, two U.S. officials told CNN on Thursday. Officials said the theory could change, with one senior administration official cautioning it is not yet supported by a “smoking gun.”
— President Barack Obama has been briefed on the situation, said Lisa Monaco, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism.
— The airplane “swerved and then plunged” before descending into the Mediterranean, Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos told reporters.
— Greek controllers tried to reach EgyptAir Flight 804 about 10 miles before it left the country’s airspace and for about 90 seconds after and received no response, the head of the Hellenic Civil Aviation Authority told Greek broadcaster ANT1 TV.

What happened

The flight seemed to be proceeding normally until it approached Egyptian airspace. Greek controllers talked to the pilot when the plane was near the Greek island of Kea at 37,000 feet at an air speed of 519 mph. Everything seemed fine at that point.
At 2:27 a.m., shortly before the aircraft was scheduled to exit Greek airspace, controllers tried to reach the pilots to transfer control to Cairo authorities. Despite repeated attempts, they received no response, the Hellenic Civil Aviation Authority said. The plane passed into Egyptian airspace two minutes later. Forty seconds later, radar contact was lost, the authority said.
Weather conditions were clear at the time, CNN meteorologist Pedram Javaheri said.
At 2:29 a.m., just after it had entered Egyptian airspace, the plane swerved 90 degrees to the left, and then 360 degrees to the right before plunging first to 15,000 feet, then 10,000 feet, before dropping off radar, Kammenos, the Greek defense minister, told reporters.

More about the flight

The flight left Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris at 11:09 p.m. Wednesday for what should have been about a 3½-hour flight.
Aboard were 56 passengers and 10 cabin crew members and security officers. The passengers were predominantly Egyptian — 30 in all — but also aboard were 15 French citizens, including an infant; two Iraqis; and one from each of the following countries: Britain, Belgium, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Chad, Portugal, Algeria and Canada, according to Fathi, the Egyptian aviation minister.
The Airbus A320 had routine maintenance checks Wednesday in Cairo before it left for Paris, an airline official said. Earlier Wednesday, the jet was also in Eritrea and Tunisia, data from flight tracking websites show.
There was no special cargo on the flight and no notification of any dangerous goods aboard, according to Adel of EgyptAir.
The plane has been part of EgyptAir’s fleet since November 2003, according to Adel. It had about 48,000 flight hours. The plane’s captain had about 6,000 flying hours, he said.

The search

Egyptian and Greek military vessels and aircraft are searching for the aircraft and any possible survivors — as is a U.S. Navy P-3 Orion based on Italy, according to U.S. European Command.
So far, no confirmed traces of the plane have been found. The objects spotted by Egyptian searchers have not been confirmed to be part of the plane, according to a spokesman for Greece’s Hellenic National Defense General Staff.
A distress signal was detected at 4:26 a.m. — about two hours after the jet vanished — in the general vicinity where it disappeared, Adel said.
He said the distress signal could have come from another vessel in the Mediterranean. Egyptian armed forces said they had not received a distress call.
If there are any survivors, there’s still a window to save them.
“The water temperatures in the eastern Mediterranean near Egypt are in the low 20s Celsius (mid to low 70s F),” Javaheri said.
“Survival times in such waters range from two to seven hours for the elderly or individuals in poor health, while they range anywhere from two to 40 hours for healthier individuals.”
A storm system could affect conditions in the region as early as Friday afternoon, Javaheri said.
As crews searched the waters of the Mediterranean, somber relatives gathered in Cairo and Paris airports, seeking word on their loved ones.
They were taken to special centers at both airports, where translators and psychiatric support awaited. In Cairo’s airport, dozens of relatives paced anxiously in a building set aside for families. Some shouted at photographers taking pictures of them, while others berated officials over the perceived lack of information.

Analysts weigh in

CNN aviation correspondent Richard Quest: “Planes just do not fall out of the sky for no reason, particularly at 37,000 feet,” he said, noting the aircraft vanished while cruising — the safest part of the journey.
David Soucie, a CNN aviation safety analyst: The first priority is to find survivors. “Find the plane, find the people, see if there are folks that could be rescued,” he said. “Safety people are looking at safety issues, maintenance people looking at maintenance issues, security people looking at security issues.”
CNN aviation analyst Les Abend: He said there are three possibilities: an explosion, something nefarious or a stall situation. “We’re in the very early stages of the investigation. Any good accident investigator will tell you, just put on the brakes a little bit and let this thing unfold. The 360-degree turn, that seems very abrupt. It’s not something I would do in any major emergency unless I was losing control of the aircraft,” he said.

Egypt’s aviation incidents

Egypt is no stranger to aviation disasters.
In March, an “unstable” man diverted an EgyptAir flight from Alexandria to Cyprus. The suspected hijacker later released all hostages and surrendered.
Last year, a Russian plane exploded midair over the Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 people aboard. Egyptian officials initially downplayed Islamic militants’ claim that they brought down the jet, saying technical failure caused the crash.
And in October 1999, an EgyptAir passenger jet made a rapid descent, plunging almost 14,000 feet in 36 seconds.
The Boeing 767, en route to Cairo from New York, crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off the Massachusetts coast.
Its debris was later found, but speculation remains on the cause of the crash that killed all 217 people on board.

CNN’s Michael Pearson and Faith Karimi wrote from Atlanta, and CNN’s Ian Lee reported from Cairo. CNN’s Euan McKirdy, Hamdi Alkhshali, Nic Robertson, Lindsay Isaac, Schams Elwazer, Chris Liakos, Elaine Ly, Catherine E. Shoichet and journalist Sarah Sirgany contributed to this report.

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PYONGYANG, North Korea — Pyongyang is either a city bracing for the full force of international sanctions or a city blissfully immune to outside pressure. On the ground in the North Korean capital, it’s hard to tell which is true.

Ask a North Korean businessman, and he’ll brush off any suggestion that international restrictions imposed after North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests are hurting even a pinch.

“Sanctions don’t work on our country,” said Kim Sok Nam, the manager of the Pyongyang Electric Cable factory, which makes wiring used for televisions and computers, but also in the construction of the new high-rises that have sprouted all around the capital. Machines in the factory poured out molten aluminum and wound huge spools of copper wire behind him.

“Past, present, future, it’s the same situation for us,” Kim said, shrugging.

Inside the factory there sat dozens of huge boxes labeled as being Axeleron, a compound used for insulating cables, made by Dow Chemical in Calgary, Alberta. The boxes bore the production date of August 2014, before the current rounds of sanctions went into place, although earlier measures banned the trade of “dual use goods,” or products that have both civilian and military uses.

The United Nations — together with the United States, Japan, South Korea and even China — is hoping that the punishments meted out to North Korea will hurt so much that they will change the regime’s calculus. That tough restrictions on financing, shipping and exporting minerals will make Kim Jong Un and his cronies think that the price of pursuing nuclear weapons is too high.

[North Korea announces five-year economic plan, its first since the 1980s]

So far, there is no reason to think that Kim is doubting his priorities.

Amid much fanfare, the 33-year-old leader called the first congress of the Workers’ Party — North Korea’s one and only party — and over the weekend declared that he would continue his “simultaneous pursuit” of economic growth and nuclear weapons.

“We will consistently take hold on the strategic line of simultaneously pushing forward the economic construction and the building of nuclear force and boost self-defensive nuclear force both in quality and quantity as long as the imperialists persist in their nuclear threat and arbitrary practices,” the congress, led by Kim, said in a decision Sunday.

In some senses, life in Pyongyang continues as normal. In the Kwangbok supermarket in the capital, North Koreans peruse the shelves of Japanese mayonnaise and Ukrainian candy.

In Pyongyang’s shiny new marble-filled airport, completed last year, there was certainly no evidence that North Korea was having difficulties in getting high-tech equipment. All visitors’ luggage was put through large, brand new X-ray machines and airport scanning equipment made by Thales, a French company. The duty-free shops were well stocked with Chivas Regal and Mumms champagne, Marlboros and Lucky Strikes.

Food is not sanctioned, but the existence of foreign products on the shelves is evidence that North Korea has ways to bring cargo into the country, whether it be legal or illegal.

But in other senses, there is a palpable apprehension that the sanctions could really hurt.

The banking sanctions were having a noticeable impact, foreign residents in Pyongyang said. Although embassies can continue to receive money, aid agencies that do not enjoy diplomatic privileges are having a much harder time.

The correspondent banks — financial intermediaries in China or Russia that transfer money from Western bank accounts to North Korean ones — have taken fright since the latest rounds of sanctions and have been refusing to handle any money destined for North Korea, no matter the reason.

[North Korea leader hails nuclear and missile advances as rare party congress opens]

While the number of international aid agencies working in North Korea has dropped sharply in recent years, there are still scores of foreigners living in Pyongyang who need to pay rent and bills locally, and agencies that need to pay local staff. While the U.N. agencies that operate here have the clout of big institutions, small aid agencies that run on cash are finding the sanctions particularly debilitating.

“Now we’re stuck,” said one aid worker, describing a so-far futile quest to find a bank willing to act as a correspondent.

U.S. companies that deal with North Korea, such as tourism agencies, ask clients paying bills not to make any mention of North Korea on their payment forms.

Shipping companies have also begged off.

“There’s been no direct impact on shippers, but we’ve seen shippers anticipating problems and refusing to accept cargo,” said one aid worker. Even with letters from the U.N. sanctions committee describing the exception for humanitarian aid, shippers don’t want to touch it, the worker said.

The foreign residents in Pyongyang spoke on the condition of anonymity, saying that speaking publicly about such sensitive matters could jeopardize their operations in North Korea.

“The humanitarian community is experiencing trouble getting things in from China,” another expatriate in Pyongyang said. “Because of the commercial risk, companies are practicing self-censorship. They feel that there is a risk in doing any business with North Korea, even if it’s for agricultural goods or hospital equipment.”

Tourism, a growing source of revenue for the regime, has also been hurt.

The Yanggakdo hotel, which has a casino in the basement, is usually teeming with Chinese tourists. This month, there were only three or four Chinese people in the hotel, excluding Chinese journalists invited to cover the congress.

Because there has been such a sharp drop in Chinese tourists, many of the scheduled Air China flights to Pyongyang are being canceled.

Air Koryo flights are seldom packed, according to frequent fliers.

[Watch: The Post’s Anna Fifield in North Korea]

But the North Koreans who were on a recent flight all took large quantities of luggage. Many had large boxes wrapped in red and blue striped plastic, while one checked a large wooden crate marked “fragile,” and another took a 65-inch Sony Bravia television to check in as oversize luggage.

With aviation fuel now coming under sanctions, Air Koryo has reportedly been having trouble keeping its planes in service. It has canceled flights to Bangkok, afraid of not being able to refuel there, according to people who monitor the flights.

And while trade in gasoline is not prohibited under sanctions, the North Korean authorities seem to be anticipating a shortage. They have ordered cars off the road on alternate days to ration fuel, and a North Korean minder allocated to accompany foreign journalists visiting Pyongyang said that the vans they were using would not be available on Sunday because of fuel shortages.

The general consensus here seems to be that it’s too early to tell whether the sanctions will hurt and how severe the pain will be.

“There’s no reason to think sanctions are not working,” said one frequent visitor to Pyongyang, “but there’s also no reason to think they are.”

North Koreans will insist it’s the latter.

Read more:

North Korea announces five-year economic plan, its first since the 1980s

North Korea’s ruling party is readying for a rare congress

The Post arrives in North Korea

Today’s coverage from Post correspondents around the world

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