Korea test-fires mid-range or modified Rodong missile: JCS

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff believes the North launched a missile to demonstrate its military power and see how the new USA administration under Trump responds, Yohnap News Agency said.

South Korea's presidential Blue House says the presidential security director Kim Kwan Jin has spoken with President Donald Trump's national security adviser Michael Flynn over the phone following North Korea's missile test launch.

The test drew a strong response from the US President Donald Trump as well as the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who condemned the act.

The North conducted two nuclear tests and a slew of rocket launches past year in continued efforts to expand its nuclear weapons and missile programs.

South Korean military later said that the "ballistic missile launched by North Korea appears not be an ICBM in terms of range", as cited by Yonhap news agency.

Such a test wouldn't be expected to succeed, however, as the report argues an actually functioning North Korean ICBM is likely two or three years away.

On a visit to South Korea earlier this month, Secretary of Defense James Mattis also vowed to defend the USA ally against the Pyongyang's burgeoning nuclear program.

North Korea is barred under United Nations resolutions from any use of ballistic missile technology.

Analysts in Seoul have been expecting some sort of military provocation ahead of late Kim Jong-il's birthday on February 16 and the largest ever joint military exercises between the USA and South Korea scheduled to begin in two weeks.

It called on DPRK "to cease its ballistic missile launches and other activities threatening regional and global security and stability". North Korea is still believed to be incapable of launching a missile that could reach the United States.

South Korea´s acting president Hwang Gyo-Ahn vowed a "corresponding punishment" in response, while Japan´s top government spokesman Yoshihide Suge called the launch "absolutely intolerable".

North Korea has conducted ballistic missile tests in the past, and has conducted five nuclear tests - most recently in September, when the isolated country detonated what it said was a "higher-level" nuclear device.

"The military is determining if the missile is a modified Musudan intermediate-range ballistic missile or the shorter range Rodong missile", a South Korean military source said. The new Trump appointee made the vow during a trip to US ally South Korea.

According to "Mad Dog" Mattis, the USA would respond to North Korea's use of nuclear weapons with an "effective and overwhelming".

Four of North Korea's five nuclear tests took place during the Obama administration.

The response will be calibrated to show strength without escalating tensions on the Korean peninsula, since this was not a nuclear test or an ICBM test.

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