SEOUL // President Donald Trump believes China’s president has been putting pressure on North Korea as it pursues its missile and nuclear weapons programmes.
Speaking to the Face the Nation programme on CBS network, due to air on Sunday, Mr Trump said he will not be happy if North Korea conducts a nuclear test and he believes Chinese president Xi Jinping will not be happy either.
Asked if that means military action, Mr Trump responded: “I don’t know. I mean, we’ll see.”
On Saturday, a North Korean mid-range ballistic missile apparently failed shortly after launch, the third test-fire flop this month but a clear message of defiance. North Korean ballistic missile tests are banned by the United Nations as they are seen as part of the North’s push for a nuclear-tipped missile that can hit the US mainland.
The launch comes as South Korea and the US wrapped up their annual large-scale military drills on Sunday, but continued a separate joint naval exercise that has triggered dire threats from nuclear-armed North Korea.
The massive Foal Eagle drill, which the defence ministry in Seoul said was ending as scheduled on Sunday, involved around 20,000 South Korean and 10,000 US troops.
Mr Trump has sent a nuclear-powered submarine and the USS Carl Vinson aircraft supercarrier to Korean waters and North Korea last week conducted large-scale, live-fire exercises on its eastern coast.
The US and South Korea also started installing a missile defence system that is supposed to be partially operational within days and their two navies are staging joint military drills.
Residents in the village of Seongj, where the missile defence system is being installed, scuffled with police on Sunday. About 300 protesters faced off against 800 police and succeeded in blocking two US army oil lorries from entering the site, local media reported. A few residents were injured or fainted from the scuffle and were transported to a hospital.
The Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system, or THAAD, remains a controversial topic in South Korea and presidential front-runner Moon Jae-in even has vowed to reconsider the deployment if he wins the May 9 election.
He has said that the security benefits of THAAD would be offset by worsened relations with China, which is the country’s biggest trading partner and is opposed to its deployment.
North Korea did not immediately comment on its latest missile launch, though its state media on Saturday reiterated the country’s goal of being able to strike the continental US.
South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff said the missile flew for several minutes and reached a maximum height of 71 kilometres before it apparently failed.
It did not provide an estimate on how far the missile flew, but a US official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters, said it was likely a medium-range KN-17 ballistic missile. It broke up a few minutes after the launch.
* Associated Press and Agence France-Presse