North Korea fires missile
Kim Jong-un ignores UN ban
South Korea's military said on Friday that neighbouring North Korea - in defiance of tough new UN and US sanctions - fired at least one ballistic missile which flew about 500 miles before landing in the sea off its east coast.
The missile launch comes days after North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un ordered weapons tests linked to its pursuit of a long-range nuclear missile capable of reaching the mainland in the United States.
A US official told Reuters in Washington it appeared to be a medium-range missile fired from a road-mobile launcher.
If this is the case, it would mark North Korea's first test of a medium-range missile that has the capabilities of reaching Japan since 2014.
South Korea's Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that the missile, launched from north of the capital, Pyongyang, shot across the peninsula and into the sea off the east coast early Friday morning.
In recent weeks, North Korea threatened pre-emptive nuclear strikes against Washington and Seoul and fired short-range missiles and artillery into the sea.
Taewoo Kim, a military expert at the South's Konyang University, told the Chicago Tribune that it is likely that Friday's launch was a test of a re-entry vehicle mounted on an alleged Rodong missile.
The statement said it appeared the North may have fired a second missile soon after from the same region, with a projectile disappearing from radar at an altitude of about 17 km.
North Korea is thought to have a substantial arsenal of atomic bombs, but South Korean officials and many outside experts say they are not small enough to place on missiles that can strike long-range targets.
South Korea did not confirm the type of the missiles. But 800 km was likely beyond the range of most short-range missiles in North Korea's arsenal.
The North's Rodong missile has an estimated maximum range of 1,300 km, according to the South's defense ministry.
Friday's launch quickly provoked a barrage of criticism and appeals.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang urged North Korea to abide by UN resolutions and not do anything to aggravate the situation.
The US State Department in a statement urged North Korea to focus on taking firm steps toward fulfilling its international commitments and obligations.