North Korea on Tuesday launched at least one ballistic missile into the sea off its east coast, the South Korean and Japanese militaries confirmed.
Pyongyang’s seventh known weapons test this year comes as the intelligence chiefs of South Korea, Japan and the United States were reported to be meeting in Seoul for talks on North Korea.
Early reports about Tuesday’s weapons test indicated it could have been a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) as it was fired at around 10.17am (1.17am UK) from near the North’s eastern port of Sinpo, where Pyongyang has a naval base for its submarines and keeps its equipment for test-firing SLBMs.
Few further details were available but the range of the ballistic missile was estimated to be about 450km (270 miles).
North Korea is banned from testing ballistic and nuclear weapons, and currently faces strict international sanctions for its ongoing arms programmes.
The launch, which follows an array of alarming tests in recent weeks including a long-range hypersonic missile and a nuclear-capable cruise missile, casts a shadow over a visit to the Seoul this week by Sung Kim, the US special envoy for North Korea.
Mr Kim plans to strategise with senior officials on how to reopen disarmament talks with Kim Jong-un, including a possible declaration to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War.
Negotiations between Pyongyang, Seoul and Washington collapsed in 2019 when Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump, then US president, could not reach a deal over the easing of punitive sanctions.
“The US continues to reach out to Pyongyang to restart dialogue,” Mr Kim said after meeting with his South Korean counterpart in Washington on Monday. “We harbour no hostile intent towards (North Korea), and we are open to meeting with them without preconditions.”
The North Korean launch is the latest test in an escalating arms build-up on the Korean peninsula. It coincides with a major arms fair in Seoul and as the South prepares for a space launch.
Fumio Kishida, Japan’s prime minister, said that two ballistic missiles had been detected, calling Pyongyang’s recent spate of tests “regrettable.”
Japan is analysing where the missile landed, while Mr Kishida was planning to return to Tokyo from a business trip to Fukushima.
There was no immediate explanation from South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff for the conflicting number of missiles detected.