North Korea fired a ballistic missile on Sunday in an apparent provocation to test the response from new US President Donald Trump, the South Korean defence ministry said.
The missile, launched around 7.55am from Banghyon air base in the western province of North Pyongan Province, flew east towards the Sea of Japan, it said.
It flew about 500km before falling into the sea, a defence ministry spokesman said, adding the exact type of missile had yet to be identified.
“It is believed that today’s missile launch … is aimed at drawing global attention to the North by boasting its nuclear and missile capabilities,” the ministry said in a statement.
“It is also believed that it was an armed provocation to test the response from the new US administration under President Trump,” it added.
An army official quoted by Yonhap news agency ruled out the possibility of a long-range missile test, describing the device as an upgraded version of the North’s short-range Rodong missile.
“The launch also appears to be part of the North’s effort to steadily improve its missile capabilities,” the official was quoted as saying.
The test came a day after Trump met with Japan’s prime minister – and took a hardline against Pyongyang.
“North Korea’s most recent missile launch is absolutely intolerable, North Korea must fully comply with the UN Security Council resolutions,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said.
North Korea is barred under UN resolutions from any use of ballistic missile technology but six sets of UN sanctions since Pyongyang’s first nuclear test in 2006 have failed to halt its drive for what it insists are defensive weapons.
Last year the country conducted numerous tests and launches in its quest to develop a nuclear weapons system capable of hitting the US mainland.