North Korea has fired a ballistic missile from the sea, South Korea’s military said, suggesting Pyongyang may have tested an underwater-launched missile for the first time in three years.
The reported launch came ahead of a resumption of nuclear talks with the US this weekend.
South Korean military radars detected the North Korean missile flying about 280 miles at a maximum altitude of 565 miles after lift-off from a site about 10 miles) off the North’s eastern coastal town of Wonsan, defence minister Jeong kyeong-doo told legislators.
Mr Jeong said he believes the missile’s range is longer because North Korea appears to have deliberately elevated its altitude. In the past, North Korea often fired missiles at a lofted angle to avoid neighbouring countries.
Some experts say the weapon was a medium-range missile, which North Korea stopped firing along with long-range missiles after it entered talks with the US early last year.
Japan lodged an immediate protest, saying the missile landed inside its exclusive economic zone. If confirmed, it would be the first North Korean missile to land that close to Japan since November 2017.
The US State Department called on North Korea “to refrain from provocations, abide by their obligations under UN Security Council resolutions, and remain engaged in substantive and sustained negotiations to do their part to ensure peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and achieve denuclearisation”.
South Korean military officials would not officially disclose whether the missile was fired from a submarine, a barge or another platform, but during an emergency National Security Council meeting, officials placed weight on a submarine-launched missile test and expressed “strong concerns”, according to South Korea’s presidential office.
Missiles launched from submarines are harder to detect in advance. Some experts say North Korea is attempting to raise the stakes and ramp up pressure on Washington before their nuclear negotiators meet on Saturday.
President Donald Trump has downplayed the significance of recent short-range launches by North Korea, but it is unclear whether he would do the same this time.
Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff statement said the weapon is believed to be a Pukguksong-class missile.
It refers to a solid-fuel missile that North Korea tested-launched from an underwater platform in 2016 with the hope that it could eventually be a part of its submarine weaponry.
That missile flew 310 miles, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said at the time that his country had gained “perfect nuclear-attack capability”.