North Korea has launched a long-range ballistic missile toward its eastern waters, its neighbours said, two days after the North threatened "shocking" consequences to protest what it called a provocative US reconnaissance activity near its territory.
South Korea's military detected the long-range missile launch from the North's capital region around 10 am [local time], the South's Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.
It said South Korea's military bolstered its surveillance posture and maintained readiness in close coordination with the United States.
Japanese Defence Minister Yasukazu Hamada told reporters that the North Korean missile was likely launched on a lofted trajectory, at a steep angle that North Korea typically uses to avoid neighboring countries when it tests long-range missiles.
Hamada said the missile was expected to land at sea about 550 kilometres east of the coast of the Korean Peninsula outside of the Japanese exclusive economic zone.
Since 2017, North Korea has performed a slew of intercontinental ballistic missile launches as part of its efforts to acquire nuclear-tipped weapons capable of striking major US cities.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who is in Lithuania to attend the NATO summit, ordered his staff to gather information and stay alert to prepare for unpredicted events, according to the prime minister's office.
Relations between the two Koreas are at one of their lowest points ever, with diplomacy stalled and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un proclaiming his nation an "irreversible" nuclear state and calling for increased weapons development, including tactical nukes.
Seoul and Washington have vowed Pyongyang would face a nuclear response and the "end" of the current government in North Korea were it to ever use its nukes against the allies.
On Monday, North Korea accused a US spy aircraft of violating its airspace and condemned Washington's plans to deploy a nuclear missile submarine near the Korean peninsula.
A spokesperson for the North's Ministry of National Defence said the United States had "intensified espionage activities beyond the wartime level", citing "provocative" flights made by US spy aircraft over eight straight days this month and one reconnaissance plane that intruded into its airspace over the East Sea "several times".
"There is no guarantee that such shocking accident as downing of the US Air Force strategic reconnaissance plane will not happen in the East Sea of Korea," the spokesperson said in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.