North Korea has fired another ballistic missile, which flew for 50 minutes, travelling around 620 miles, before landing in Japanese waters.
The intercontinental ballistic missile was launched eastward from Pyongsong in North Korea’s South Pyongan Province in the direction of the Sea of Japan at around 3.30am local time (6.30pm GMT), the South Korean military confirmed citing its joint chiefs of staff.
South Korean and American officials are currently working together to confirm the missile’s exact trajectory and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has ordered an emergency cabinet meeting.
The South Korean Military says it responded with a missile exercise of its own.
Guam’s Homeland Security has confirmed the missile launch but said it posed no threat to the US island territory.
The Pentagon has now confirmed the missile ‘travelled for around 1,000km (620 miles) before splashing down in the Sea of Japan’.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders tweeted to say President Donald Trump was ‘briefed while missile was still in the air, on the situation with North Korea’.
This is the first missile launched since one was fired across Japan and into the Pacific Ocean on September 15.
It comes just days after President Trump added North Korea to America’s list of ‘state sponsors of terror’ and announced further sanctions targeting the country’s shipping.
Pyongyang branded the move ‘a serious provocation and violent infringement’.
Officials in Seoul announced yesterday that a rocket-tracking radar was turned on at a missile base in the North of the region, followed by a large amount of radio chatter, the Yonhap news agency reported.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders tweeted to say President Donald Trump was ‘briefed while missile was still in the air, on the situation with North Korea’
Cho Myoung-gyon, South Korea’s unification minister, confirmed the activity at an event in Seoul today as he warned that Kim Jong Un may complete his nuclear programme much sooner than previously thought.
Mr Cho said there had been ‘noteworthy activity in the North recently’, but said the world would have to ‘wait and see whether it leads to an actual missile test’.
Speaking about Kim’s efforts to develop a viable long-range nuclear weapon, he added: ‘Experts think North Korea will take two to three more years but they are developing their nuclear capabilities faster than expected.
‘We cannot rule out the possibility Pyongyang may declare the completion of their nuclear programme in a year.’
Japan said the latest signals from North Korea might have come to nothing, saying they could have been from military exercises which the North routinely carries out each winter.
Cho had said the frequency of North Korean activity tends to decline noticeably during the winter.
‘If it launched a provocation, North Korea has to put its military on alert, but most of its troops are needed for manual labour for preparation of winter,’ he said.
Other reasons behind the lull could be that Pyongyang simply needs more time to advance its missile programme such as perfecting its re-entry technology, Cho said, or the North Korean leader could be focusing on boosting the economy.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (second left) is pictured in South Pyongan Province, where the missile was launched from at 3.30am local time today
Kim has already carried out a record 15 missile tests this year, including two which were fired over the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.
The tests also confirmed that North Korea has developed a functioning ICBM, a key step toward creating a nuke that can strike mainland America.
News of another launch would come as a blow to North Korea’s opponents who had hoped that increased sanctions were at least slowing the country’s progress.
After a flurry of missile tests over the summer, Kim last fired a weapon on September 15, despite widely-anticipated launches in October around Labor Day in the US and the Chinese 19th Party Congress.