North Korea looks to have fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile on Saturday off its east coast.
The reports come from South Korea’s military, which says it is on high alert over the possibility that Kim Jong Un’s regime could now conduct its fifth nuclear test “at any time” in defiance of UN sanctions after setting off what it said was a hydrogen device in January.
The missile flew for about 30 km, a South Korean Defence Ministry official said by telephone, adding that its military was trying to determine whether the launch may have been a failure for unspecified reasons.
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said the missile flew “for a few minutes”, citing a government source.
The US State Department in Washington said it was aware of reports the North had launched what appeared to be a ballistic missile.
“Launches using ballistic missile technology are a clear violation of multiple UN Security Council resolutions,” said State Department spokesman John Kirby.
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond also condemned the apparent test.
The North first attempted a launch of the submarine-based missile last year, trying to develop such a weapons system, which could pose a new threat to its neighbours and the United States if perfected.
The fear is that the isolated North might conduct a nuclear test or a missile launch in a show of strength, ahead of a ruling party congress next month – the first such meeting in 36 years.
Some reports suggest Pyongyang has already started a campaign against people dressing in a ‘Western manner’ ahead of the May gathering.