North Korea next in Trump's crosshairs

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The North conducted two nuclear tests and 24 ballistic missile tests a year ago, defying six Security Council sanctions resolutions banning any testing.

North Korea has raised eyebrows yet again with the test launch of its Pukguksong-2 Scud-(extended range) ER ballistic missile off the country's east coast ahead of the summit between the newly elected US president Donald Trump and Xi Jinping, the president of the People's Republic of China.

Interestingly, the upgraded version of Pukguksong-1, which was sacked last August by North Korea via a submarine, employs pre-loaded solid fuel.

The US removed its nukes from South Korea 25 years ago; putting them back would be the first time US nuclear weapons were located overseas since the Cold War.

South Korea agreed Friday to further strengthen trilateral military partnerships with the United States and Japan to counter North Korea's missile threats, Seoul's defense ministry said.

'Tremendous progress' in US, China relations
The move sent the important message that the U.S.is still the "preeminent power", according to a seasoned diplomat and China hand. Pyongyang is trying to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of targeting the western part of the US.

"The clock has now run out and all options are on the table", an official told CNN on Tuesday, pointing to the failure of successive administrations' efforts to negotiate an end to North Korea's nuclear program.

The Massachusetts Democrat's plan, outlined in a letter that was sent to Trump on the eve of his first meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, suggests that the USA should agree to direct talks with North Korea in exchange for China's commitment to drastically escalate sanctions against Pyongyang if they fail to negotiate in good faith.

The plans are far from new additions to the United States foreign policy playbook and won't come as a surprise to the Chinese, Stephens said.

The symbolic meeting between the two superpowers came two days after North Korea fired a ballistic missile off its east coast Wednesday morning, which flew about 60 kilometers (37 miles) before coming down in the East Sea.

A few hours south of Pyongyang the North Korean military faces off against US-led United Nations forces across the Demilitarized Zone, considered one of the most heavily fortified locations on Earth.

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'I think President Xi, from their part, shared the view that this has reached a very serious stage in terms of the advancement of North Korea's nuclear capabilities, ' Tillerson said.

The missile launch has been met with heavy condemnation throughout the world.

The North Portal, where the four most recent nuclear tests were conducted, appeared to be especially busy, the website added.

However, China has for a long time insisted that the crux of the North Korean nuclear issue is a problem between Washington and Pyongyang.

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