North Korea launches missile into waters off Japan ahead of G20 summit

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga says this ballistic missile launch can never be tolerated.

north korea missile launch
A rocket is fired during a drill by anti-aircraft units of the Korean People's Army (KPA) in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang November 3, 2015 Reuters (Representational image)

North Korea launched an intermediate-range ballistic missile on Tuesday that landed into waters east of the Korean Peninsula. This was the latest missile in a series of provocations that have ratcheted up tensions over the nuclear-armed North's weapons ambitions.

According to South Korea's military, the missile was launched from Panghyon, in North Pyongan province and it traveled more than 930 kilometers (578 miles).

"We confirm that North Korea has fired an unidentified ballistic missile off its eastern coast towards the East Sea from Banghyun area in Northern Pyong An Province at around 9:40 am (KST) Tuesday morning," a South Korean military official told NBC. The South's Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that it flew for "several hundred kilometres".

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the missile flew "for about 40 minutes" -- an unusually long flight time. "This launch of a ballistic missile can never be tolerated, and Japan strongly protested to North Korea and condemned it," he told a briefing.

Pyongyang has carried out multiple launches since Moon Jae-In was elected as Seoul's new leader in May. Moon backs engagement with the North but also stresses the need for sanctions. This incident came just days after Moon and US President Donald Trump focused on the threat from Pyongyang in their first summit.

Yonhap, the South Korean state news agency reported that Moon has called a meeting of the South's National Security Council in response to the launch. Reportedly, the meeting was to determine the country's defense readiness against further incidents.

Earlier at the weekend summit in Washington, Trump declared that the US had run out of patience with North Korea over its weapons drive, which includes developing a missile capable of delivering a warhead to the US mainland.

"Together, we are facing the threat of the reckless and brutal regime in North Korea," Trump said. "The nuclear and ballistic missile programs of that regime require a determined response."

"The North Korean dictatorship has no regard for the safety and security of its people, for its neighbours and has no respect for human life," the US President added.

Trump discussed the issue in separate phone calls with Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

According to Shea Cotton, a researcher at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in the US, Tuesday's missile launch was deliberately timed to coincide with the anniversary of the US declaration of independence.

"It's already 4th of July in North Korea," he said on Twitter. "I somewhat suspect they're shooting off some fireworks today specifically because of that."