The third missile test this week comes as leaders of Japan and South Korea prepare to hold their first summit in years.
North Korea has fired a ballistic missile into its eastern waters, just hours before South Korea’s president was due to fly to Japan for the first summit between the two countries in years, with the situation in nuclear-armed North Korea a key concern.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said Pyongyang had launched what appeared to be a banned intercontinental missile off its east coast.
Japan also detected the missile and the coast guard issued a warning to vessels to be vigilant of fallen objects. Japan’s Kyodo news agency reported the missile flew for about 1,000 km (621 miles), reaching a maximum altitude of 6,000 km (3,728 miles) over a period of 70 minutes, citing the defence ministry.
North Korea has conducted three missile launch events this week alone amid ongoing large-scale military drills between South Korea and the United States, which Pyongyang considers hostile and a rehearsal for invasion.
The latest launch also comes hours before South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida are due to meet in Tokyo for the first bilateral summit in 12 years.
Both South Korea and Japan are ramping up defence spending and joint military exercises, which Yoon has said are essential for regional and global stability.
“There is an increasing need for Korea and Japan to cooperate in this time of a poly-crisis with North Korean nuclear and missile threats escalating,” Yoon said in a written interview with media ahead of his trip.
Already this week, Pyongyang has fired cruise missiles from a submarine and sent short-range ballistic missiles across its territory and towards an eastern sea target, after leader Kim Jong Un ordered his military to be ready to repel what he called “frantic war preparations moves” by North Korea’s adversaries.
The US and South Korea began the so-called Freedom Shield exercises, which include field drills and computer simulations, on Monday. They will wrap up on March 23.
North Korea fired a record number of missiles last year, justifying its weapons development as necessary for self-defence.