N Korea fires long range missile ahead of Japan talks
North Korea has fired an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) just hours before the leaders of South Korea and Japan are due to meet for a landmark summit.
Both Japanese and South Korean officials confirmed the long-range missile’s launch on Thursday morning.
It flew about 1,000km (620 miles) landing in waters west of Japan.
It is the fourth missile launch from Pyongyang this past week – although the other rounds have been short-range.
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The activity comes amid ongoing naval drills between the US and South Korea around the Korean peninsula- the allies’ largest in five years. North Korea has repeatedly said it sees such exercises as provocation.
The missile was fired at 07:10 (22:10 GMT) from Pyongyang on the east coast of North Korea, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said.
Japan’s defence ministry confirmed it as an ICBM type and said it flew higher than 6,000km for about 70 minutes.
Following Thursday’s launch, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol ordered his country’s military to continue with the joint US exercises as planned.
He added that Pyongyang would pay for its “reckless provocations”.
North Korea last fired an ICBM less than a month ago- an action that sparked a UN emergency meeting and condemnation from G7 countries.
ICBMs are particularly worrying because of their long range, including mainland United States.
North Korea’s ramped-up missile activity is set to be top of agenda when Mr Yoon meets Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Tokyo later on Thursday.
Many hope the meeting – which has been hailed as a “milestone” in the rapprochement of South Korea and Japan – will result in closer security ties and military cooperation between the two countries in the face of North Korea’s aggression.
Both countries said they would convene their national security councils following Thursday’s missile launch.