North Korea fired a ballistic missile into the Sea of ​​Japan, but the projectile is believed to have missed, according to the South Korean military, as it apparently exploded in mid-air.

The military said South Korea detected the launch from near Pyongyang around 5:30 a.m. and that the missile did not cause any damage to aircraft or ships. A military source said North Korea may have tested a hypersonic missile equipped with a solid fuel engine, but it exploded in flight over the sea, Kyodo News reported.

The Japanese Defense Ministry said North Korea fired at least one ballistic missile eastward and is estimated to have flown more than 200 kilometers at a maximum altitude of about 100 km before landing off the eastern coast of the Korean Peninsula. The projectile fell into the sea, outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone.

A hypersonic missile is designed to travel at more than five times the speed of sound. With current missile defense systems struggling to intercept such projectiles, North Korea’s acquisition of hypersonic missile capabilities raises regional security concerns, according to analysts.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has promised to develop missiles that use solid fuel to shorten the time needed for pre-launch preparations, while also promising to ensure reconnaissance capabilities with satellite systems.

Tokyo presented a stern protest to Pyongyang over the launch, which violates UN Security Council resolutions, and condemned North Korea’s missile tests for threatening the peace and security of the international community, according to the Japanese ministry.

Following the missile launch, senior Japanese, American and South Korean officials in charge of North Korean affairs condemned the action during telephone conversations, according to the Japanese Foreign Ministry.

The Korean conflict: history, dynamics and future

North Korea is prohibited from using any ballistic missile technology under U.N. Security Council resolutions that also impose sanctions on the country.

The latest launch came after North Korea on Monday condemned the recent visit to Busan by the US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt and warned of a possible military exercise to ensure deterrence.

The aircraft carrier will participate in a joint defense exercise with South Korea and Japan, called Freedom Edge, scheduled for the end of this month near the Korean peninsula, according to South Korean media.

North Korea has also recently launched garbage balloons into South Korea.

Japan, the United States and South Korea have criticized Pyongyang for its repeated ballistic missile launches, while boosting their trilateral security ties through joint exercises and real-time information sharing on North Korean missile launches.

The United States and its two East Asian allies have also criticized growing military cooperation between North Korea and Russia, whose leaders last week signed a new association treaty that reportedly provides for mutual defense.


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