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Seoul, March 16 – North Korea fired a long-range ballistic missile towards the East Sea on Thursday, just hours before summit talks between the leaders of South Korea and Japan on pending bilateral issues and regional security.
South Korean’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said it detected the launch from the Sunan area in Pyongyang at 7.10 a.m., and the missile, fired at a lofted angle, flew some 1,000 km before hitting the waters, reports Yonhap NewsAgency.
A month earlier, the North test-fired a Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
Observers have raised the possibility of Pyongyang launching a solid-fuel ICBM, which is faster to fire and harder to spot in advance of take-off.
“The intelligence authorities of South Korea and the US are conducting a comprehensive analysis in consideration of recent movements related to the North’s missile development program,” the JCS said in a statement.
“We strongly condemn the North’s series of ballistic missile launches as an act of significant provocation that harms peace and stability not only on the Korean Peninsula, but also in the international community, and a clear violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions,” the JCS said, urging the North to immediately stop such launches.
Later in the day, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida plan to hold a summit in Tokyo, in which the North’s nuclear and missile threats are expected to be high on the agenda.
The North’s growing nuclear and missile threats have created fresh momentum for Seoul and Tokyo to move beyond their historical feuds and work together to confront the security challenge.
The latest launch came amid the ongoing South Korea-US Freedom Shield (FS) exercise.
The North has decried the exercise as “preparations for a war of aggression” and threatened to take “overwhelming” action against military activities by the allies.
The North fired two short-range ballistic missiles Tuesday and what it claimed to be two “strategic cruise missiles” from a submarine two days earlier.
The launches were seen as a response to the FS exercise.