North Korea faces more sanctions after missile test

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North Korea conducted two unauthorized nuclear test explosions a year ago and launched almost two dozen rockets in continuing efforts to expand its nuclear weapons and missile programs.

The missile was described by North Korean state news agency KCNA as a "surface-to-surface medium- to long-range ballistic missile" called the Pukkuksong-2 that was a "new type strategic weapon system" featuring a solid-fuel engine. A fully developed ICBM could threaten the continental US.

The Trump administration had been expecting a North Korean "provocation" soon after taking office and will consider a full range of options in a response to Pyongyang's missile test, but calibrated to show USA resolve while avoiding escalation, a US official told Reuters on Saturday.

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Kim said in his New Year's Day speech that North Korea was close to test-launching an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and state media have said such a launch could come at any time. Later that evening Trump and Abe appeared before reporters in front of American and Japanese flags, during which Abe denounced the launch as "absolutely intolerable" and Trump declared that "the United States of America stands behind Japan, its great ally, 100 percent".

The US, Japan and South Korea requested urgent UN Security Council consultations on the test. Trump spent much of his campaign hammering opponent Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server to conduct business while she was secretary of state - something Trump said was not almost secure enough.

First, he said, Trump should fully enforce existing US and multilateral sanctions, including by making sure China is enforcing its sanctions commitments under United Nations Security Council resolutions.

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Most experts, however, agree the North has made considerable progress since Kim took over absolute power in the country following the death of his father, Kim Jong Il, in December 2011.

Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Geng Shuang (耿爽) said that China opposed the launch, which violated UN Security Council resolutions that call for an end to North Korea's nuclear and missile tests. Without more pressure from China, North Korea is unlikely to stop. "Japan, with our high level of technical capability, will be able to contribute to President Trump's growth strategy", Abe said.

"We can not make a judgment on the extent and nature of North Korea propaganda that claims it has miniaturized nuclear warheads", the official said.

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South Korea's acting president and prime minister, Hwang Kyo-ahn, said his country will punish North Korea for the provocation.

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