North Korea has fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile off its east coast, South Korea's military said, the latest in a string of missile launches by the isolated country in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions.
The missile was fired at around 5:30am (local time) from near the coastal city of Sinpo, where satellite imagery shows a submarine base to be located, and flew about 500 kilometres before splashing into the Sea of Japan, US and South Korean officials said.
The projectile reached Japan's air defence identification zone (ADIZ), an area of control designated by countries to help maintain air security, according to Japanese and South Korean authorities
"This is the first time a missile from North Korea was launched from a submarine into our country's air-defence identification zone," Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters, adding that Japan had lodged a stern protest.
"This poses a grave threat to Japan's security, and is an unforgivable act that damages regional peace and stability markedly."
The launch came on the same day that the foreign ministers of China, Japan and South Korea were scheduled to meet in Tokyo.
The launch also comes two days after rival South Korea and the United States began annual military exercises in the south that North Korea condemns as a preparation for invasion, and has threatened retaliation.
South Korea's presidential office had said it planned to hold a national security council meeting at 7:30am (local time) to discuss the missile test.
North Korea has become further isolated after a January nuclear test, its fourth, and the launch of a long-range rocket in February brought tightened UN sanctions.
It has launched numerous missiles of various types this year, including one other this month that landed in or near Japanese-controlled waters.
Tensions on the Korean peninsula were exacerbated by the recent defection of North Korea's deputy ambassador in London to South Korea, an embarrassing setback to the regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
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