North Korea has fired a ballistic missile, the first such launch since mid-September, according to officials in South Korea, Japan and the United States.
“North Korea launched an unidentified ballistic missile eastward from the vicinity of Pyongsong, South Pyongan Province, at dawn today”, South Korean army officials told South Korean news agency Yonhap.
There was no immediate comment from North Korea.
The missile was fired from Pyongsong, a city in South Pyongan Province, at around 3:17am local time (18:17 GMT) on Wednesday, according to South Korea’s military.
Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera said the missile reached an estimated altitude of around 4,000 kilometres and broke up before landing in the country’s “exclusive economic zone”.
His US counterpart, Jim Mattis, said the missile went higher than ever before, describing it as a step towards Pyongyang building missiles that can “threaten everywhere in the world, basically”.
“With these tests, North Korea wants to demonstrate to the world the range its missiles have,” Al Jazeera’s Kathy Novak, reporting from South Korea’s capital, Seoul, said.
An initial assessment by the US Department of Defense said North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). This type of missile is capable of carrying nuclear warheads and could reach the mainland of the United States.
If the Pentagon’s first assessment turns out to be correct, it would be the third test of an ICBM by North Korea this year.