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World & Nation

North Korea fires missile into waters off Japan

This undated picture released from North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on May 2
An undated photo from North Korea’s official news agency shows leader Kim Jong Un. South Korea reported Monday that the North fired an unidentified projectile.
(AFP/Getty Images)

North Korea on Monday fired what appeared to be a ballistic missile that landed in waters off Japan, eliciting new objections from its neighbor.

The U.S. military’s Pacific Command said the early morning launch — the ninth such test this year by North Korea — occurred near an airfield in the eastern coastal town of Wonsan.

American officials tracked the missile for six minutes. It landed in the Sea of Japan, and never posed a threat to North America.

“We are working with our interagency partners on a more detailed assessment,” the Pacific Command statement said. “We continue to monitor North Korea’s actions closely.”

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The incident angered Japan, which said the launch violated United Nations Security Council resolutions.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters that the projectile flew into Japan’s “exclusive economic zone,” a maritime buffer zone where shipping and fishing vessels are active. There were no reports of damage or injuries.

“This ballistic missile launch by North Korea is highly problematic from the perspective of the safety of shipping and air traffic,” Suga said.

“Japan absolutely cannot tolerate North Korea’s repeated provocative actions. We have strongly protested to North Korea and condemn its actions in the strongest terms.”

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U.S. military officials, who said the device appeared to be a short-range missile, weren’t specific about where it landed in the sea. But South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the missile traveled about 280 miles and could have reached the Japanese zone.

The North has conducted dozens of missile tests in recent years, raising alarm about its emerging technical capability.

The North already has the ability to strike U.S. allies in the region, such as South Korea and Japan. But the long-term concern is that the North might acquire the capability to put a nuclear warhead on a missile that can strike American military targets in Asia — or even the U.S. mainland.

In a televised speech this year, the North’s leader, Kim Jong Un, said the country was making progress toward deploying an intercontinental ballistic missile. Such a capability is now a national goal, and the North recently paraded dozens of missiles through the streets of Pyongyang in a show of strength and defiance.

President Trump was briefed about Monday’s launch, a National Security Council spokesman said without elaborating.

Stiles is a special correspondent. Times staff writer W.J. Hennigan contributed to this report.

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UPDATES:

7:15 p.m.: This article was updated with no reports of damage or injuries.

4:45 p.m.: This article was updated with staff reporting.

3:35 p.m.: This article was updated with information about the type of projectile that was fired, where it landed and more background.

This article was originally published at 2:40 p.m.

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