North Korea has reportedly fired a ballistic missile, triggering a sharp reaction from South Korea, which detected and reported the launch.
The ballistic missile, which appeared to have been of the Rodong medium-range class, was launched by North Korea on Sunday and reached an altitude of about 550 kilometers, said a South Korean military source.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that the missile had been fired from around Banghyon, in North Pyongan Province, which is where South Korean officials have said the North test-launched its powerful mid-range Musudan missile on October 15 and 20 last year.
The latest missile flew about 500 kilometers and is believed to have fallen into the sea between the Korean Peninsula and Japan.
Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters that the missile did not hit Japanese territorial waters.
South Korea’s Acting President and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn has threatened to punish North Korea over the move.
According to the South Korean Foreign Ministry, Seoul would make new efforts with its allies, including the US and Japan, to toughen sanctions against the North and make the country realize that it will "never be able to survive” without discarding all of its nuclear and missile programs.
North Korea faced global condemnations and international sanctions following two nuclear tests and a slew of rocket launches last year.
North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un announced in a 2017 New Year address to the country that the North Korean military was almost ready to test an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
Pyongyang says it is developing its missile and nuclear programs as deterrence against the United States. It says it will not abandon the programs unless the US ends hostilities toward the country.
The US and South Korea recently agreed to deploy an advanced US missile system on Korean territory in response to perceived threats from the North.