A TV screen shows a file image of a N.Korea’s missile launch during a news program at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul on Wednesday. Ahn Young-joon/ AP
North Korea fired a ballistic missile from the sea on Wednesday, South Korea's military said, a suggestion that it may have tested an underwater-launched missile for the first time in three years ahead of a resumption of nuclear talks with the United States this weekend.
The North Korea missile flew about 450 kilometers (280 miles) at a maximum altitude of 910 kilometers (565 miles) after liftoff from an unspecified place in the waters off the North's eastern coastal town of Wonsan, Seoul's Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement. South Korean and US intelligence authorities were analyzing details of the launch, it said.
Japan lodged an immediate protest against North Korea, saying the missile landed inside Japan's exclusive economic zone. If confirmed, it would be the first North Korean missile that has landed that close to Japan since November 2017.
US State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus, traveling with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Rome, said the US calls on North Korea "to refrain from provocations, abide by their obligations under UN Security Council resolutions, and remain engaged in substantive and sustained negotiations to do their part to ensure peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and achieve denuclearization."
South Korean military officials wouldn't officially disclose whether the missile was fired from a submarine, a barge or another possible platform. But during an emergency National Security Council meeting, council members placed weight on the possibility that North Korea performed a submarine-launched missile test and expressed "strong concerns" over the North Korean move, according to South Korea's presidential office.
Missiles launched from submarines are harder to detect in advance. Some experts say North Korea is attempting to raise the stakes and ramp up pressure on the United States before their nuclear negotiators meet on Saturday.
"The North is trying to convey a message that time is not on the side of the United States and that it could take a different path if the working-level talks don't go the way it wanted," said Du Hyeogn Cha, a visiting scholar at Seoul's Asan Institute for Policy Studies.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff statement said the weapon fired Tuesday is believed to be a "Pukguksong-class" missile. It refers to a solid-fuel missile that North Korea tested-launched from an underwater platform in 2016 with the hope that it could eventually be a part of its submarine weaponry. That missile flew 500 kilometers (310 miles), and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said at the time that his country had gained "perfect nuclear-attack capability."
Thursday’s missile tests were the first since Kim and US President Donald Trump agreed to resume nuclear talks during an impromptu meeting last month in the demilitarised zone between North and South Korea.
South Korea’s Defence Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo on Saturday fended off calls to step up pressure on North Korea after it test-fired missiles last month. Jeong told an annual security conference in Singapore
The two devices were fired from the Wonsan area on the east coast at dawn and flew around 250 kilometres (155 miles), said South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.
About half the country's roughly 110 million people are currently under quarantine — including millions in deep poverty, left jobless by tough restrictions on movement.
The first phase testing would take around three months, CSIRO's director of health Rob Grenfell told Reuters, adding that any resulting vaccine would not be available to the public before late next year.
Confirmed coronavirus infections around the world approached one million on Thursday as the pandemic spread at a "near-exponential" rate, with a six-week-old baby becoming one of the youngest known victims.