North Korea launched another missile this morning, just hours after Chinese President Xi Jinping publicly reaffirmed his country's commitment to recent United Nations sanctions against its neighbor during a meeting with US President Barack Obama in Washington.
The projectile was fired from a region near the North's east coast, a South Korean military official told Reuters by telephone. Another official at the office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said it was a short-range surface to air missile of as-yet undetermined range.
It is at least the fifth time North Korea has fired missiles since UN sanctions were imposed on March 2 in the wake of the country's latest nuclear test on January 6.
The launch came after China's state news agency Xinhua reported Jinping saying all parties should "fully and strictly" implement the UN resolutions, which include China having to inspect all North Korean ships that arrive at its ports for contraband, and to stop imports if evidence is found of them funding its neighbours nuclear program.
Jinping's remarks were reportedly made on Thursday while he was "comparing notes" on the Korean Peninsula situation with Obama, at a meeting on the sidelines of an ongoing Nuclear Security Summit in the US capital.
Obama acknowledged that the US and China had "significant differences" of opinion on various issues, but said the countries would work together regarding North Korea to "discuss how we can discourage action like nuclear missile tests that escalate tensions and violate international obligations."
Xi echoed his sentiments, telling reporters while his country had disputes with Obama's, there were wide areas where the two nations should and could work with each other.
In another meeting on the sidelines of the summit, Obama also appeared alongside South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, with the trio vowing to ramp up pressure on North Korea in response to its recent nuclear and missile tests and reaffirming their countries' mutual self-defense commitment.
"We are united in our efforts to deter and defend against North Korean provocations," Obama told reporters after the US-Japan-South Korea meeting. "We have to work together to meet this challenge."
Relations between Park and Abe have been frosty in the past, but the two have been brought together in recent months by shared concerns about North Korea, since its nuclear test in January and launching of a long-range rocket into space the following month.
The United States has sought to encourage improved ties between Seoul and Japan, its two biggest allies in Asia, given worries not only about North Korea but also an increasingly assertive China.
The expanded UN sanctions aimed at starving North Korea of funds for its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs were approved last month in a unanimous Security Council vote on a resolution drafted by the United States and China.
But even though Beijing has signed on, doubts persist in the West on how far it will go in tightening the screws on impoverished North Korea, given China's concerns about fuelling instability on its borders.
In the wake of the sanctions, North Korea has sentenced a US tourist to 15 years of hard labor over an attempt to steal a propaganda poster from a hotel, while a second US citizen is awaiting sentencing having recently "confessed" to "unpardonable espionage."
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has made repeated statements in recent weeks calling for more nuclear tests, while a propaganda video released by the country last week depicted Washington DC being decimated by a nuclear bomb.
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