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North Korea tests missile, US to avoid escalation

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Launch of missile is first test of Trump's vow to get tough on the North

SEOUL/WASHINGTON North Korea fired a ballistic missile into the sea early yesterday, the first such test since US President Donald Trump was elected, and his administration indicated that Washington will have a calibrated response to avoid escalating tensions.

The test was of a medium- or intermediate-range missile that landed in the Sea of Japan, said the US Defence Department, not an intercontinental ballistic missile, which the North has said it could test at any time.

The launch marked the first test of Mr Trump's vow to get tough on an isolated North Korean regime that last year had tested nuclear devices and ballistic missiles at an unprecedented rate in violation of United Nations resolutions.

A US official said the Trump administration had been expecting a North Korean "provocation" soon after taking office and will consider a full range of options in response.

It is also likely to step up pressure on China to rein in North Korea, reflecting Mr Trump's view that Beijing has not done enough on this front, the official said on condition of anonymity.

The latest test came a day after Mr Trump had held a summit meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and followed Mr Trump's phone call last week with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Mr Trump has given no clear sign of how his tougher policy will differ from former US president Barack Obama's so-called strategic patience.

"Our assessment is it is part of a show of force in response to the new administration's hard-line position against the North," the office said in a statement. 

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