North Korea has fired an unspecified ballistic missile toward the east coast of South Korea, it has been claimed.
South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff, which reported the launch, did not confirm what type of missile it was or how far it flew.
Japan’s defence minister said the missile reached an altitude of 50 kilometres and is believed to have landed outside its exclusive economic zone, the Reuters news agency reported.
The launch came a day after South Korean officials said they had detected signs that North Korea was preparing to test a missile designed to be fired from submarines.
On Friday, a US aircraft carrier arrived in South Korea to participate in joint drills with South Korean forces ahead of a planned visit next week by US vice president Kamala Harris.
It’s the first time North Korea has carried out such a launch after firing eight short-range ballistic missiles in one day in early June, which led the United States to call for more UN sanctions on the Kim Jong-un-led nation.
North Korea rejects UN resolutions as an infringement of its sovereign right to self-defence and space exploration.
Reports at the time said North Korea was preparing to test-fire a submarine-launched ballistic missile after the South Korean military spotted activities of North Korea preparing to test the artillery in Sinpo, the Yonhap news agency reported on Saturday.
The agency cited an unnamed South Korean military source in its report who stated that the test would take place next week on Wednesday and Thursday in the South Hamgyong Province of North Korea.
Earlier this week, some US-based think tanks also said North Korea could be preparing to conduct a submarine-launched ballistic missile test.
New satellite images revealed new construction and barges at the Sinpo South Shipyard on the east coast of the country, which is critical to North Korea’s new ballistic missile submarine (SSB).
According to reports, six news barges and vessels were detected around the submarine construction hall which was not previously present, according to the 38 North, a programme of nonpartisan think tank Stimson Centre which monitors North Korea.
The images were taken on 18 September. It said the new development suggests that “North Koreans are preparing to launch a new submarine” from the shipyard – where Kim Jong-un visited in 2019.
“While barges and a dry dock have been occasionally observed around the submarine launch quay at the main construction hall, the presence of six vessels and barges in this area has not been observed before,” the report said.
The news comes as US officials had said Russia was in the process of purchasing rockets and artillery shells from North Korea. They said such moves, along with alleged purchases of Iranian weapons, showed Western sanctions were impeding Russia’s efforts in the Ukraine war.
On Thursday, in a statement carried by North Korean state media KCNA, an unnamed official at North Korea’s defence ministry said: “We have never exported weapons or ammunition to Russia before and we will not plan to export them.”
It accused the US, and other “hostile forces”, of spreading rumours to “pursue its base political and military aims”.
North Korea has dialled up its testing activities to a record pace in 2022, testing more than 30 ballistic weapons, including its first intercontinental ballistic missiles since 2017, as it continues to expand its military capabilities amid a prolonged stalemate in nuclear diplomacy.