South Korea strongly condemned North Korea's latest missile test Tuesday, vowing a stern response to further provocations based on its defense alliance with the United States.
The Seoul government also stepped up its diplomatic efforts to strengthen cooperation with the US and other countries to rein in the North's evolving nuclear and missile threats.
The North fired what appeared to be an intermediate-range ballistic missile from the vicinity of Sunan in Pyongyang at around 5:57 a.m. that flew over Japan before falling into the northern Pacific Ocean, according to the South Korean military.
"We strongly condemn the North's yet another provocation despite a grave message sent through Resolution 2371 adopted by the international community in the wake of its repeated strategic provocations," the government said in a statement.
"The North should come out to the road toward talks as soon as possible in recognition of the fact that denuclearization is the only way to security and economic development instead of seeking reckless provocations," it added.
The government said that it will firmly respond if the North continues its provocations based on strong alliance with the US.
"We are fully ready for any threat from the North and will make unwavering efforts to protect the lives of our people and the security of our nation," it said.
The government rushed to communicate with the US and other countries to discuss countermeasures.
Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha held a phone discussion with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to discuss how to respond to North Korea's latest ballistic missile provocation, according to the foreign ministry.
During the talks that lasted around 15 minutes, the ministry said, the top diplomats of the allies shared the "seriousness" of the situation caused by the North's latest missile launch and agreed to "sternly" take action at the UN Security Council level based on close cooperation.
They also voiced strong condemnation against the North for making such a provocative act despite their calls for a restraint in hope that it could have an "opportunity."
"The two also agreed to maintain close communication at every possible level by using such occasions including the upcoming UN General Assembly scheduled for September," the ministry said.
Kang later spoke with her Japanese counterpart Taro Kono by phone discussing their coordinated approach toward the North.
She told Kono the North "has thrown cold water" on the expectation in the international community that its nuclear issue could be resolved through talks and negotiations.
The two shared a view that "chances are high" that the North will seek additional provocations, stressing the need for the cooperation among South Korea, Japan and the US to make better preparations, according to the ministry.
In a meeting with visiting Lao Foreign Minister Saleumxay Kommasith, Kang said that the North's missile launch is a "very serious and grave provocation" and the Seoul government is in close consultation with its counterparts in the US to "further seek sanctions at the Security Council level."
The Lao minister expressed deep concerns over the current situation on the Korean Peninsula.
The latest missile launch came on the heels of the North's firing of three projectiles on Saturday widely believed to be short-range ballistic missiles. This marked an end to around a month-long hiatus of provocations.
On Monday, Kang told reporters during a press briefing that an "environment" for talks with the North could be created only when the North stops further provocations, apparently reaffirming the Seoul government's willingness to seek negotiations to defuse the escalating tensions in the region.
Some experts see the North's recent missile launches as partly aimed at raising stakes ahead of a possible resumption of negotiations with the US
"It seems that the North is trying to resolve things with the US The latest missile test should be understood in a context that Pyongyang is making its call for talks with Washington," said Kim Yong-hyun, a professor of North Korean studies at Seoul's Dongguk University. "South Korea appears to be a dependent variable in its mind."
The North remained defiant despite global denunciation against its continued provocations, with its official newspaper Rodong Sinmun saying in a commentary on Tuesday that sanctions and military pressure are not working on it.
"The US should be aware that any economic pressure and military blackmail cannot surprise us and we will not flinch an inch from the path of our choice," the paper said. (Yonhap)