North Korea fired a missile off its coast and the nuclear-capable short-range weapon could have been modelled on Russia’s banned Iskander munition.
The UN prohibited North Korea from ballistic and nuclear weapons tests but the launch marks the 19th this year already, and comes ahead of a visit to the region from US Vice President Kamala Harris.
The test also appears to be timed with the arrival of the United States USS Ronald Reagan carrier strike group – a fleet of missile and aircraft carriers – which arrived in South Korea's south-eastern port city of Busan on Friday.
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South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff said the missile launched from the western inland town of Taechon flew 370 miles cross-country at a maximum altitude of 37 miles before landing in waters off North Korea’s eastern coast.
Kim Dong-yub, a professor at Seoul's University of North Korean Studies, noted to ABC News that the missile in North Korea flew the same distance from its Taechon launch point as the distance to South Korea's southern port Busan.
The intelligence agencies of South Korea and the US are analysing further details, but the Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said the ballistic missile may have possibly flown on an irregular trajectory.
Mr Hamada said it launched around 6:52am local time in Japan or 22:52pm UK time Saturday.
It fell "near the eastern coast of North Korea", outside of Japan's Exclusive Economic Zone he added.
Concrete validation of the type of missile is underway, but the flight details announced by Seoul’s military suggest that North Korea could have tested a nuclear-capable short-range weapon modelled on Russia ’s Iskander missiles.
The Iskander missile launcher was developed in the 1970s to replace the Soviet Union’s Scud-B missile system and the United States has countered the sale of it, saying that the cruise missiles used by the Iskander-K violate the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) due to their immense range.
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They travel at relatively low altitudes and are designed to be manoeuvrable in flight, making them harder to be intercepted by missile defences.
They can be launched within 16 minutes from a mobile device and a second missile can follow in less than one minute following the successful launch of the first one.
The Russian Ministry of Defense claimed in a statement that “according to the missile men if desired, it can even fly into a window.”
South Korea said the launch was an "act of grave provocation".
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