North Korea fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) from off its East Coast on Tuesday, South Korea’s military said, pulling Japan’s new Prime Minister off the campaign trail and overshadowing the opening of a major arms fair in Seoul.
The launch, reported by officials in South Korea and Japan, came after U.S. and South Korean envoys met in Washington to discuss the nuclear standoff with North Korea on Monday. Meanwhile, the intelligence chiefs of the U.S., South Korea, and Japan were due to meet in Seoul to discuss the standoff with North Korea, amid other issues, Yonhap news agency reported, citing a government source.
The North Korean launch would be the latest weapons test by the country, which has pressed ahead with military development in the face of international sanctions imposed over its nuclear weapons and missile programmes.
The missile was launched about 10:17 a.m. local time from the sea in the vicinity of Sinpo, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said.
It was not immediately clear whether the missile was fired from a submarine or from a submersible test barge, as in most previous tests. “Our military is closely monitoring the situation and maintaining readiness posture in close cooperation with the U.S., to prepare for possible additional launches,” JCS said in a statement.
The missile flew about 430-450 km to a maximum altitude of 60 km, Yonhap reported.
Kim Dong-yup, a former South Korea Navy officer who is a professor at Kyungnam University’s Far East Institute in Seoul, said the latest test likely involved one of the SLBMs recently unveiled by North Korea.
The North displayed new missiles during its military parades in October and January, respectively, and a previously unseen, smaller missile was spotted at last week’s defence fair in Pyongyang.
North Korea has also been working on what would be its first operational submarine capable of launching an SLBM, according to South Korean officials. It currently has an experimental ballistic missile submarine it claims was used in a 2016 test, though some analysts say that may have used a barge.
Japanese PM Fumio Kishida cancelled his campaign plans, and the deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary said that Mr. Kishida was planning to return to Tokyo to deal with the missile situation.