Japanese and South Korean officials say North Korea launched a ballistic missile that appears to have landed in Japan’s economic exclusion zone. North Korea’s move on Saturday precedes a tabletop exercise between the United States and South Korea scheduled in Washington next week. “North Korea has launched an unidentified ballistic missile into the East Sea,” South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said, referring to the waters also known as the Sea of Japan.
Japanese government spokesman Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters that North Korea had launched an “ICBM-class ballistic missile” toward the east, referring to long-range ICBMs that North Korea is increasingly testing. The rocket flew an estimated range of 900 kilometers (560 miles) and reached a maximum altitude of 5,700 kilometers. Speaking to reporters after the launch, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the missile appeared to have landed “within Japan’s EEZ (exclusive economic zone), west of Hokkaido.” Japanese officials said there were no immediate reports of damage to ships or airplanes.
A South Korean official said a “suspicious long-range missile” was fired from the Sunan area near Pyongyang. Sunan is the Pyongyang International Airport site where North Korea conducted most of its ICBM tests in recent times. The launch came a day after North Korea’s foreign ministry threatened to take “unprecedented” forceful action against South Korea after announcing planned military exercises.
North Korea has also conducted several launches in what it describes as simulated nuclear attacks on targets in South Korea and the United States and has also passed a law declaring the country an “irreversible” nuclear power. The increase in activity out of Pyongyang followed an increase in joint military exercises from South Korea and key allies. A diplomatic offensive was carried out.