According to South Korea and Japan, North Korea fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile into the sea off the east coast of the peninsula.
If confirmed, it would be the latest in Pyongyang’s string of missile tests. It comes just days before South Korea’s new president, Yoon Suk-yeol, has promised to take a more difficult stance with the North.
The launch was described as an unacceptable threat to the international community, said Japan’s defence minister. The minister, Nobuo Kishi, also told that Japan would continue to “strengthen defence powers drastically”.
According to US and South Korean intelligence sources, a North Korean nuclear test could occur between the two events. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un pledged last month to expand his country’s nuclear weapons programme.
The frequency and timing of the tests in January are unusual. North Korea typically launches missiles to mark politically significant events in the country or to express its displeasure with US-South Korean military exercises.