A man looks towards North Korea's propaganda village Kaepoong through a pair of binoculars from an observation platform, near the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas. Photo: Reuters

North Korea fired a ballistic missile into the sea early on Sunday, the first such test since Donald Trump was elected, and his administration indicated that Washington would have a calibrated response to avoid escalating tensions.

The test was likely to have been of an intermediate-range Musudan-class missile that landed in the Sea of Japan, according to South Korea’s military, not an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, which the North has said it could test at any time.

The launch marks the first test of Trump’s vow to get tough on an isolated North Korean regime that last year 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, but these would be calibrated to show resolve while avoiding escalation.

The new administration is also likely to step up pressure on China to rein in North Korea, reflecting Trump’s previously stated view that Beijing has not done enough on this front, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“This was no surprise,” the official said. “The North Korean leader likes to draw attention at times like this.”

The latest test comes a day after Trump held a summit meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and also follows Trump’s phone call last week with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“I just want everybody to understand, and fully know, that the United States of America is behind Japan, our great ally, 100%,” Trump told reporters in Palm Beach, Florida, speaking alongside Abe. He made no further comments.

Abe called the launch “absolutely intolerable” and said North Korea must comply with UN Security Council resolutions.

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