North Korea has fired a suspected ballistic missile into the sea off its east coast, in its first such launch since October. The missile landed in water between the Korean peninsula and Japan, bringing condemnation from Seoul and Tokyo.
According to the US, the ballistic missile on Wednesday was fired just hours before South Korean President Moon Jae-in attended a groundbreaking ceremony for a rail line he hopes will eventually connect the divided Korean peninsula.
The launch took place at 8:10 a.m. (2310 GMT) from an east coast inland location into the sea, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said. Japan's defence minister said the suspected ballistic missile had flown an estimated 500 km (310 miles).
The US Indo-Pacific Command said the ballistic missile launch “highlights the destabilising impact of (North Korea's) illicit weapons program” but didn't pose an immediate threat to US territory or its allies. It said in a statement that the US commitment to the defence of its allies, South Korea and Japan, remains “ironclad."
"There's no way to assess whether this might have been a longer-range missile flown on a shortened trajectory," Ankit Panda of the Nuclear Policy Programme at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace told BBC News.
In 2017, North Korea tested the Hwasong-15, a missile that peaked at an estimated altitude of 4,500km, putting US military bases on the Pacific island of Guam well within striking distance.
In the decade since Kim Jong Un took power, North Korea has made rapid progress in its military technology, at the cost of international sanctions.
The nuclear-armed nation's first apparent weapons launch of 2022 follows a year of major arms tests despite severe economic hardship during the coronavirus pandemic.