March 16, 2023 at 10:10 JST
U.S. military armored vehicles cross a river during a joint river-crossing drill between South Korea and the United States in Yeoncheon, South Korea, on March 13. (South Korea Defense Ministry via AP)
SEOUL--North Korea fired a long-range ballistic missile into the sea between the Korean peninsula and Japan on Thursday, hours before South Korea's president was due to fly to Tokyo for a summit expected to discuss ways to counter the nuclear-armed North.
North Korea has conducted multiple missile launches this week amid ongoing joint South Korea-U.S. military drills that Pyongyang condemns as hostile actions.
The missile, fired at 7:10 a.m. (2210 GMT on Wednesday) from Pyongyang, flew about 1,000 kilometres at a lofted trajectory, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said.
Japan's defence ministry said the intercontinental ballistic missile-type (ICBM) projectile appeared to have flown higher than 6,000 km for about 70 minutes.
It most likely landed outside Japan's exclusive economic zones, 200 km west of Oshima-Oshima Island in Hokkaido, northern Japan, the ministry said.
South Korea convened a national security council meeting and "strongly condemned" the missile launch as a grave act of provocation threatening international peace.
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol ordered his country's military to carry out drills with the United States as planned, saying North Korea would pay for its "reckless provocations," according to his office.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Japan would also hold a national security council meeting over the launch.
"The regional peace and stability is the most important issue for relevant nations," Kishida told reporters. "We need to build closer cooperation with all allies and friendly nations."
Yoon is headed to Japan for the first such summit with Kishida in more than a decade, part of an effort to overcome historical, political and economic disputes in the name of better cooperating to counter North Korea and other challenges.
As part of the efforts, the two U.S. allies have agreed to share real-time tracking of North Korean missile launches, and have vowed to further deepen military cooperation.
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