North Korea has fired an unidentified projectile into the sea, according to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS).
The Japanese coast guard, which first reported the missile launch, said it could potentially be a ballistic missile, but they haven’t yet confirmed it.
Japan’s defence minister, Nobuo Kishi said the suspected ballistic missile had flown about 500 km (310 miles), according to a Reuters report.
Under UN sanctions, North Korea is prohibited from ballistic and nuclear weapons tests.
With the new year just 5 days gone, this would be the first missile launch carried by Pyongyang this year.
“South Korean and US intelligence are closely analysing for further detail,” the JCS said in a statement.
In 2017, North Korea tested the Hwasong-15, a missile that peaked at an estimated altitude of 4,500km, putting US military bases on the Pacific island of Guam well within striking distance.
The launch comes days after Kim said during a key end-of-year meeting of North Korea’s ruling party that Pyongyang would continue to strengthen its defence capabilities due to an increasingly unstable military environment on the Korean peninsula
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida called the latest launch “very regrettable,” pointing to North Korea’s repeated testing of missiles since 2021.
In 2021, North Korea continued the advancement of its weapons programme, testing a new hypersonic missile, as well as a train-based ballistic missile and a new long-range cruise missile.
The tests come as Pyongyang struggles with food shortages due to a coronavirus blockade that has affected its economy.
At the end-of-year meeting, Kim said the country was facing a “great life-and-death struggle”, adding that increasing development and improving people’s living standards were among this year’s goals.