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North Korea Crisis

North Korea launches ballistic missile ahead of Xi-Trump summit

US to call for more joint pressure on Pyongyang, says White House

TOKYO -- North Korea fired a ballistic missile toward the Sea of Japan at 6:42 a.m. on Wednesday from the eastern coastal region of Sinpo. The missile flew about 60km before hitting the water, according to the South Korean military.

The launch comes on the eve of a two-day summit that sees U.S. President Donald Trump host Chinese President Xi Jinping at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. 

Pyongyang's actions are likely to be high on the agenda at the meeting. Trump is likely to call on North Korea's main ally to exert more pressure on Pyongyang through measures including economic sanctions.

"China has great influence over North Korea," Trump told the Financial Times in an interview. "And China will either decide to help us with North Korea, or they won't." Trump has also warned that the U.S. is prepared to take measures against Pyongyang unilaterally: "If China is not going to solve North Korea, we will."

Ahead of the summit, a senior White House official declared "the clock has now run out, and all options are on the table [against North Korea]," as he briefed reporters in Washington on Tuesday, local time. The official explained that, during the meeting, Trump will stress the importance of U.S.-China cooperation in exerting economic pressure on North Korea.

Beijing, on the other hand, has repeatedly called for dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang with regard to the nuclear issue. It remains to be seen whether the summit will lead to any concrete results.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson issued a short statement following the missile launch: "The United States has spoken enough about North Korea. We have no further comment."

During his first Asia tour this month, Tillerson said the U.S. was looking at a "new approach" against North Korea in which "all options are on the table," including military action.

North Korea has continued with military provocation this year. On March 6, Pyongyang fired four medium-range ballistic missiles from Tongchang-ri region -- near the border with China -- toward the Sea of Japan, three of which fell in Japan's exclusive economic zone. 

More recently, North Korea failed in an attempt to fire a missile off its east coast after it exploded shortly after launch. 

With the possibility of additional launches after Wednesday morning, the South Korean military is on alert, working closely with U.S. counterparts. The Japanese government said it had lodged a strong protest against North Korea following the launch.

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