North Korea missile over Japan: China blames US and South Korea for provoking Pyongyang

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China has warned the US and South Korea not to provoke North Korea and called for restraint from all sides after Pyongyang fired a missile that flew over Japan and landed in waters off the northern region of Hokkaido.

Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying made the comment at a daily news briefing.

North Korea’s latest missile test came amid joint US-South Korea war games, and Seoul at a firing range near its border with the North.

North Korea typically reacts with anger to such drills, often testing weapons and threatening Seoul and Washington in its state-controlled media.

But animosity is higher than usual following threats by US President Donald Trump to unleash “fire and fury like the world has never seen”, and Pyongyang’s threat to bomb the American Pacific territory of Guam. South Korea has also released footage of its own missile tests, which it said were conducted last week.

Mr Trump has traded fierce rhetoric with North Korea’s young dictator, Kim Jong-un, for months, as the pace of the regime’s missile testing has increased. He  that “military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded”.

China’s foreign ministry said it opposed North Korea going against UN resolutions to launch missiles, but added that sanctions and pressure could not solve the issue. It called for the United States and North Korea to open talks.

Mr Trump has tried to pressure China, Pyongyang’s sole major ally, into doing more to restrain the Kim regime.

And Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said: “China has to ratchet up the pressure. They have condemned these missiles tests like everyone else but with unique leverage comes unique responsibility.”

China has said it will implement the latest economic sanctions voted for by the UN Security Council, however. The council is due to meet later on Tuesday in response to the latest launch.

Mr Trump, his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and South Korea’s President, Moon Jae-in, have all signalled their willingness to hold diplomatic talks with the North to try to halt its nuclear weapons programme.

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A US congressman visiting Seoul said Washington is now pressuring North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions by shutting down the impoverished country’s access to hard currency, the lifeblood of its expensive weapons program. 

The goal is to offer international banks that do business with Pyongyang a choice between bankruptcy and freezing North Korean accounts, Ed Royce, the Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said.

Tuesday’s launch came only days after Pyongyang test-fired three short-range ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan. It brought the total number of tests this year to 13, with analysts predicting the North could possess a viable long-range nuclear missile by the end of Mr Trump’s first term as President.

Mr Trump had previously suggested his tough approach might be working.

He in Phoenix, Arizona, last week: “I respect the fact that [Mr Kim] is starting to respect us. And maybe—probably not, but maybe—something positive can come about.

Additional reporting by agencies

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