North Korea has fired a ballistic missile towards the sea off the country’s east coast, the first firing since last week’s flurry of missile launches – and heavy artillery fire – which saw more than 30 missiles land in the seas off the Korean peninsula, South Korea’s military said.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said it detected the launch of a short-range ballistic missile on Wednesday from an area in or around North Korea’s Sukchon in South Pyongan Province, at around 3:31 pm local time (06:30 GMT).
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Fired towards the East Sea, which is also known as the Sea of Japan, the missile’s “flight distance was detected at about 290 kilometres (180 miles), an altitude of about 30 kilometres, and a speed of about Mach 6”, South Korea’s military reported.
Japan’s Kyodo news agency, citing a Japanese government source, said the missile landed outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone, which extends 200 nautical miles (370 kilometres) from the country’s coastline.
Japan’s Coast Guard also tracked the missile and said it appeared to have fallen into the sea minutes after the launch was first reported.
The launch is the latest in a record year of missile tests by Pyongyang, including an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) last week, and comes at a time of growing concern that North Korea could be preparing for its first test detonation of a nuclear device since 2017.
The missile launch also comes as the United States – South Korea’s main military ally – counted votes in the country’s midterm elections, which will determine whether US President Joe Biden’s Democratic Party maintains control of the House of Representative and the Senate or loses one or both to the Republican Party.
Earlier on Wednesday, South Korea said it had identified debris from an earlier North Korean missile launch as part of a Soviet-era SA-5 surface-to-air missile.
A South Korean Navy ship used an underwater probe to recover the missile, which was the first time a North Korean ballistic missile had landed near South Korean waters.
North Korea’s military said the launches were simulated attacks on South Korea and the United States, criticising their exercises as an “dangerous, aggressive war drill.”
The SA-5 is an air defence missile originally designed by the Soviet Union, where it was designated the S-200, to shoot down strategic bombers and other high-altitude targets.
The missile was exported around the world, and is still in service in at least a dozen countries, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies.