North Korea nuclear program

Updated at 9:50 p.m. ET Thursday

Japanese and South Korean officials have confirmed another missile test by North Korea Friday morning local time. This is the 15th North Korean missile test this year and the first to come after Pyongyang tested its most powerful nuclear bomb yet.

Intelligence experts say North Korea is several years or more away from having the capability to threaten the U.S. West Coast with a nuclear missile. But recent sabre rattling was enough to make Washington state senators hold a hearing Wednesday about preparedness.

The threat of a nuclear attack, immigration enforcement and paying by the mile to drive are all on the agenda as Washington lawmakers hold meetings the week of September 11.

The Trump administration has unveiled new sanctions against Chinese and Russian entities as part of an escalation to curb North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.

In a statement released Tuesday, the Treasury Department said the goal of this latest round of sanctions is to stem the flow of money going toward Pyongyang's weapons program by tightening the sanctions.

Updated at 8:05 p.m. ET

President Trump on Tuesday threatened to meet North Korea with "fire and fury" a day after Pyongyang said it was ready with "ultimate measures" in response to new U.N. sanctions pushed by Washington.

"North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States," the president warned at a meeting on the opioid crisis held at Bedminster, N.J., where he is on an extended working vacation.

Listen closely to what U.S. officials like to say about America's long security alliance with South Korea, where 28,000 U.S. troops are stationed in bases around the country. Something in the language perpetually pops up:

"America's commitment to defending our allies ... remain[s] ironclad," Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in Seoul in February.

Jeon Chung-won tends sheep on the hilly farm where he was born in PyeongChang, a rural county a few hours' drive east of South Korea's capital Seoul.

"It's a simple, peaceful place where the mountain air hugs you," says Jeon, 32. "I really love this place."

Only a handful of domestic tourists typically come to PyeongChang, to hike green hills dotted with Buddhist temples or visit a small ski station nearby. But that is about to change.

The Pentagon announced it has staged a test in which the military shot down a missile similar to the type that North Korea could someday use to threaten the United States.

NPR National Security Editor Philip Ewing reports for our Newscast unit on how Tuesday's test was conducted:

"First, a missile target took off from an island in the western Pacific.

North Korea fired a short-range ballistic missile off its east coast on Monday into the Sea of Japan, South Korean and Japanese officials say, its ninth launch this year.

The South's Joint Chiefs of Staff described it as a Scud-type missile that flew for some 280 miles, NPR's Jihye Lee tells our Newscast unit, from Seoul.

"The military is saying that the launch took place from Wonsan, home to a test site of intermediate-range missiles," Lee reports.

The Associated Press adds:

North Korea doesn't have a whole lot of longtime friends on the world stage. In fact, as Pyongyang looks beyond its borders, it is likely to find only one world power ready to regularly defend its interests and actions in high-level international negotiations: China, its next-door neighbor, most important trading partner and staunch ally.

To consider the dangers in America's future, let's go back more than 2,000 years to ancient Greece. Sparta was the established power, but Athens was rising fast. Sparta wanted to preserve its status, while Athens felt it should be dominant.

President Trump says that while he would like to resolve the issue of North Korea's nuclear program diplomatically, it will be hard — and there is a potential for a major clash with the Asian nation, Trump said in an interview with Reuters.

"There's a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea, absolutely," the president told the news agency. "We'd love to solve things diplomatically but it's very difficult."

A U.S. missile defense system that's now being installed in South Korea will be operational "in the coming days," says Adm. Harry Harris, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command.

Amid the fanfare and regalia of its founder's birthday celebrations, North Korea rolled out what appeared to be new missiles – a brazen display as the country ratchets up its rhetoric against efforts to curb its weapons programs.

A U.S. Navy strike group has been ordered to relocate to the western Pacific Ocean, providing a physical presence near the Korean Peninsula as concerns mount over North Korea's missile program.

The Pentagon announced the deployment late Saturday. In a statement, U.S. Pacific Command spokesman David Benham said the Carl Vinson Strike Group set sail toward the peninsula from Singapore.

The ground had barely stopped shaking from North Korea's most recent nuclear test last week when the international condemnations began.