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North Korea fires suspected intermediate-range missile

North Korea fired a suspected intermediate-range ballistic missile into the sea off its east coast, South Korea’s military said, in a move that sparked immediate condemnation from the prime minister of Japan.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said that it detected the launch of what appeared to be a ballistic missile of an intermediate-range class from the area of the North Korean capital Pyongyang at 06.53am local time.

It flew about 600kms before falling into sea, South Korea said, while Japan’s defence ministry estimated it covered a distance of 650km and hit a maximum altitude of 100km.

The statement from South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff did not specify the exact type of missile, but North Korea has been testing a new intermediate-range hypersonic missile powered by a solid-fuel engine.

In March, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un oversaw a ground test of a solid-fuel engine for a new type of intermediate-range hypersonic missile to develop national defence capability, state media reported.

Japan said the missile appeared to have fallen outside of Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Amid concerns Russia and North Korea are developing closer military links, the US and its major Asian allies South Korea and Japan are expanding security cooperation.

Officials in the US, South Korea and Ukraine have accused North Korea of providing weapons such as missiles to Russia for use in the Ukraine war. Pyongyang and Moscow have denied the allegations.

South Korea announced sanctions on two Russian vessels that it said had transported munitions between North Korea and Russia, and two Russian organisations involved in hiring North Korean workers to help Pyongyang earn foreign currency, South Korea’s foreign ministry said on Tuesday.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida condemned North Korea for today’s missile launch that affected the peace and stability of the region, he told reporters.

North Korea recently said it had no interest in a summit with Japan and would reject any talks, potentially worsening already-hostile relations between the two countries.

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