TOKYO and SEOUL – Japan and South Korea said North Korea fired a ballistic missile Sunday afternoon.
The Japanese Defense Ministry said the launch appeared to be a shorter-range ballistic missile than those recently tested based on its flight time.
South Korean officials said the missile was launched from the Pyongyang region into the East Sea before 3 p.m. local time. South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said the plane traveled about 1,000 kilometers, or about 621 miles.
“We strongly condemn North Korea's missile launch as a clear provocation that seriously threatens peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula,” the South Korean military said in a statement.
North Korea last month tested a long-range intercontinental ballistic missile, with an estimated range of about 9,300 miles, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said at the time, citing the missile's flight path.
South Korea said the missile fired on Sunday appeared to be a medium-range missile.
South Korea said Japan and South Korea are working in close cooperation with the United States to analyze the launch.
Emphasizing a new era of cooperation, Japan, the United States and South Korea have significantly strengthened their military cooperation, including making progress in overcoming past disputes, in response to North Korea's missile launches, aggressive stances and displays of military force.
The three countries activated a real-time network to exchange fast and accurate tracking data on North Korean missile threats.
Launched the day after North Korea launched an intercontinental ballistic missile in December – believed to be a solid-fueled Hwasong-18 – this new operational capability is expected to provide detailed data on missile launch points, flight paths, and expected impact points. Moving beyond previous restrictions on training, authorities claim that the network will now be in continuous operation.
Kishida, who was on a trip Sunday to quake-hit Kanazawa, said the government is evaluating the information and will provide appropriate information when it knows more.
Japanese defense officials said the missile was launched from an area inland from North Korea, saying it flew on a northeasterly trajectory. They estimate that the missile had a maximum altitude of more than 30 miles and a flight distance of at least 310 miles.
This afternoon at 2:57 p.m., the Japanese Coast Guard sent out a warning of a possible North Korean missile launch. At approximately 3:11 p.m., they sent another message stating that the potential missile had apparently fallen.
Ships were warned if they encountered debris from the fallen missile not to approach it, and the Coast Guard was alerted. The Coast Guard said it had not received any information about possible damage to the ships.
Japan said it believed the missile fell into the sea outside Japan's exclusive economic zone, which extends 200 nautical miles from the country's coast. The ministry said it is actively working to collect more information about the incident.
The missile launch comes ahead of a scheduled visit by a senior North Korean diplomat to Russia, according to TASS, a state-owned Russian news service.
North Korean Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui will begin a two-day diplomatic visit on January 15 at the invitation of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, TASS reported, citing North Korea's Korean Central News Agency.
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