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North Korea fires 1st ballistic missile in over 2 months, US official says

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North Korea fires 1st ballistic missile in over 2 months, US official says

PlayKorea News Service via AP, FILE

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North Korea launched an intercontinental ballistic missile 2,800 miles into space earlier today, making it the highest North Korean missile test to date, two U.S. officials confirmed.

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It was also the longest duration of any missile flight, traveling in the air for an estimated 50 minutes, an official said.

The launch marks Pyongyang's third intercontinental ballistic missile test and the 15th ballistic missile launch of 2017. It is the latest act of provocation by the hermit nation and its first test in over two months.

"The missile was launched from Sain Ni, North Korea, and traveled about 1000 km before splashing down in the Sea of Japan, within Japan's Economic Exclusion Zone (EEZ)," Pentagon spokesman Col. Robert Manning said in a statement.

The missile did not pose a threat to North America, its territories, or its allies, the Department of Defense said.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders tweeted Tuesday afternoon that Trump had been briefed on the situation "while [the] missile was still in the air."

Trump later addressed the launch in an appearance before reporters at the White House, pledging: "We will take care of it… it is a situation that we will handle."

South Korea's Yonhap news agency was the first to report the launch, which occurred locally in the early morning hours Wednesday, citing South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“North Korea launched an unidentified ballistic missile eastward from the vicinity of Pyongsong, South Pyongan Province, at dawn today,” the Joint Chiefs of Staff said, according to Yonhap.

Earlier in the day, Manning noted "a probable missile launch from North Korea" at "approximately 1:30 p.m. EST," which would be 3:00 a.m. Wednesday in North Korea's capital of Pyongyang.

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The launch marks the end of the longest stretch of time that the regime has not conducted a test since U.S. President Donald Trump took office in January. North Korea tested its first missile of the year on Feb. 11, 22 days after Trump's inauguration. From March to May, the regime conducted tests every one to two weeks.

PHOTO: President Donald Trump speaks at the South Korean National Assembly, Nov. 8, 2017, in Seoul, South Korea. Andrew Harnik/AP
President Donald Trump speaks at the South Korean National Assembly, Nov. 8, 2017, in Seoul, South Korea.

The most recent missile launch occurred on Sept. 14, 75 days ago.

On Aug. 8, Trump threatened the regime with "fire and fury like the world has never seen," prompting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to say he would consider sending missiles into the waters off the coast of Guam in "mid-August."

Several weeks later, North Korea fired three short-range ballistic missiles not toward Guam but into the Sea of Japan.

PHOTO: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un watches a launching drill of the medium-and-long range strategic ballistic rocket Hwasong-12 at an undisclosed location, in a photo released on Sept. 16, 2017 by the Korean Central News Agency.Korean Central News Agency via AFP/Getty Images, FILE
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un watches a launching drill of the medium-and-long range strategic ballistic rocket Hwasong-12 at an undisclosed location, in a photo released on Sept. 16, 2017 by the Korean Central News Agency.

North Korea's last test of a ballistic missile was on Sept. 15, an intermediate-range KN-17 that flew over the Japanese island of Hokkaido.

The Trump administration has said all military options remain on the table when dealing with the North Korean threat, but top U.S. officials have consistently emphasized the U.S. is pursuing a diplomatically led effort, including additional economic pressure.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis said earlier in November, during the pause in testing, that "there would be an opportunity for talks" "so long as they stop testing, stop developing" and "don't export their weapons," according to a Reuters report.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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