According to a South Korean military official, the launch had taken place at 07:36 local time on March 6 and was being investigated to determine the type of projectile used.
The US military said later it had detected and tracked a launch but had determined that it did not pose a threat to North America.
State Department acting spokesperson Mark Toner said in a statement: “The United States strongly condemns the DPRK’s ballistic missile launches tonight, which violate UN Security Council Resolutions explicitly prohibiting North Korea’s launches using ballistic missile technology.”
On March 3, Pyongyang threatened to fire missiles in response to the Foal Eagle military exercises under way between South Korea and the US. North Korea sees the annual drills as preparation for an invasion against it.
Today’s launches were just the latest in a long series of tests of North Korean missile technology, which experts say is likely to be improving with successive tests.
North Korea has repeatedly said its space program is peaceful but it is believed to be developing an intercontinental ballistic missile that could strike the US.
However, most believe North Korea is still some time away from being able to miniaturize nuclear warheads so they could fit on to a missile.
North Korea has sent an open letter to South Korea calling for reconciliation and an end to “hostile military acts”.
The letter, published in North Korea’s state media, comes weeks before South Korea is due to hold joint military drills with the US.
South Korea dismissed the letter as having a “hidden motive”.
Correspondents say that tensions between North Korea and South Korea traditionally rise ahead of the annual drills, which Pyongyang has condemned as provocative.
Last year, the military exercises, known as “Foal Eagle”, led to an unusually sharp and protracted surge in tensions. North Korea threatened pre-emptive nuclear strikes, as nuclear-capable US stealth bombers flew practice runs over the peninsula.
The military drills scheduled for next month are a source of great irritation to the North, which sees them as aggressive preparations for war.
While North Korea is appearing to offer reconciliation, its rhetoric has been accompanied by thinly-veiled threats not to “rashly reject” the proposals.
“What is important for paving a wide avenue for mending North-South relations is to make a bold decision to stop all hostile military acts, the biggest hurdle stoking distrust and confrontation,” the letter from North Korea’s National Defence Commission (NDC) said.
North Korea has sent an open letter to South Korea calling for reconciliation and an end to hostile military acts
“The DPRK [North Korea] has already unilaterally opted for halting all acts of getting on the nerves of South Korea and slandering it.”
“Regretfully, the South Korean authorities still remain unchanged in [their] improper attitude and negative stand,” it said, adding that the South “should not thoughtlessly doubt, misinterpret and rashly reject our sincere, important proposal”.
The letter was apparently sent by special order of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. It calls on South Korea to take a bold decision to “stop all hostile military acts” and prevent “impending nuclear disasters”.
South Korean defense ministry spokesman Wi Yong-seop said: “The most important military tactic is to figure out the enemy’s hidden motive.”
He added that existing tensions were the result of “North Korea’s military provocations” and that “the current situation can be resolved if North Korea stops threatening and hostile rhetoric”.
This letter follows a proposal from the NDC a week ago that South Korea should cancel the annual drills with the US.
It also said the two sides should stop “all acts of provoking and slandering” each other.
Seoul has responded by warning that Pyongyang may be contemplating a provocative act aimed at triggering a confrontation.
In March 2013, North Korea made multiple threats against the South and the US following the “Foal Eagle” drill.
Pyongyang warned of a “pre-emptive nuclear strike” on the US, said it was scrapping the Korean War armistice, and closed the jointly-run Kaesong industrial park for months.
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