North Korea fired ‘long-range’ ballistic missiles toward the sea, say Japan and South Korea

North Korea fired a suspected long-range ballistic missile toward the sea off its east coast on Thursday, militaries in South Korea and Japan said, about a week after a missile reportedly exploded in mid-air over Pyongyang.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said it detected the launch of an “unidentified projectile” from North Korea. It said the launch was assumed to be a long-range missile, possibly an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) fired on a “lofted” trajectory, Yonhap news agency reported.

South Korea’s Ministry of Defense did not immediately confirm whether the test involved an ICBM, which has not been test fired at full range since 2017.

Japan’s government also said the launch could be a ballistic missile.

On March 16, North Korea launched a suspected missile that appeared to explode shortly after liftoff in the skies over Pyongyang, South Korea’s military said, amid reports that the nuclear-armed North was seeking to test-fire its largest missile yet.

The United States and South Korea have warned that North Korea may be preparing to test-fire an ICBM at full range for the first time since 2017, possibly in the guise of launching a satellite.

After several recent launches, Pyongyang said it was testing components for a reconnaissance satellite system. Leader Kim Jong Un said this month that North Korea would soon launch multiple satellites to monitor military movements by the United States and its allies.

Thursday’s launch would be at least the 13th ballistic missile test fired by North Korea this year, an unprecedented frequency that has drawn condemnation from the United States, South Korea and Japan.

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