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According to South Korean and US officials, North Korea has fired a ballistic missile from a submarine off its east coast.

The KN-11 missile was launched from waters near Sinpo and flew about 300 miles before falling into the Sea of Japan, a US official said.

Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe said it fell inside Japan’s Air Defense Identification Zone, calling it a “reckless act”.

The move comes as South Korea and the US begin annual military drills, which routinely anger Pyongyang.

Ulchi Freedom involves about 80,000 US and South Korean troops in a largely computer-simulated defense of South Korea from a fictional North Korean invasion.

Photo KCNA

Photo KCNA

North Korea, which sees these drills as a rehearsal for invasion, recently warned they were pushing the Korean peninsula towards the brink of war and threatened a “pre-emptive nuclear strike” in retaliation.

The communist country is banned by the UN from any use of ballistic or nuclear technology. But in recent months it has carried out repeated missile launches, and is believed to be close to conducting its fifth test of a nuclear device.

Today’s launch appears to have been its most successful test yet of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM).

SLBMs are of particular concern because of the mobility of submarines and the ease with which launch preparation can remain undetected.

South Korea’s military said it “seemed to be aimed at raising military tension in response to the Seoul-Washington military drill”, the Yonhap news agency reports.

It said it would “sternly and strongly respond to any provocation by North Korea”.

Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe confirmed reports that the missile fell into Japan’s ADIZ, an area of airspace over which a country exercises security controls.

He said it was an “unforgivable, reckless act” which “poses a grave threat to Japan’s security”.

The US State Department said it “strongly condemned” this, and previous missile tests, and would raise concerns at the UN.

North Korea’s launch also coincided with a meeting of foreign ministers from Japan, China and South Korea in Tokyo.


According to South Korean sources, North Korea appears to have fired a ballistic missile from a submarine off its eastern coast.

It is not clear whether the test was authentic, and if it was, whether it will be considered a success by North Korea.

A successful test would be significant because submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) are hard to detect.

The latest test comes as North Korea gears up for a rare and significant party congress next month.

North Korea is banned from nuclear tests and activities that use ballistic missile technology under UN sanctions dating back to 2006.

A South Korea defense ministry spokesman said: “North Korea launched a projectile which was believed to be a submarine-launched ballistic missile around 6:30 pm in the East Sea (Sea of Japan) near the north-eastern port of Sinpo.”

Photo KCNA

Photo KCNA

“We are keeping close tabs on the North Korean military and maintaining a full defence posture,” he said.

North Korea has yet to report the test in its own official media. The secretive state has claimed to have carried out similar tests before but some doubt those claims.

The US says photographs supposedly showing one launch in December were manipulated and others think North Korea has fired missiles from submerged platforms, but not submarines.

Regarding this latest test, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that the missile travelled about 19 miles, whereas a typical SLBM can travel at least 186 miles.

North Korea has so far conducted four nuclear tests – the first one in October 2006 and the latest in January this year.

The UN Security Council responded to the latter by imposing its strongest sanctions to date over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

In March 2016, North Korea said it had developed nuclear warheads small enough to fit on ballistic missiles, although experts cast doubt on the claims.

Analysts believe North Korea may be gearing up for a fifth test as a show of strength ahead of the North Korean Workers’ Party Congress, the first since 1980.