North Korea fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) from off its east coast on Tuesday, South Korea’s military said, pulling Japan’s new prime minister off the campaign trail and overshadowing the opening of a major arms fair in Seoul.
The launch, reported by officials in South Korea and Japan, came after US and South Korean envoys met in Washington to discuss the nuclear standoff with North Korea on Monday. Spy chiefs from the US, South Korea, and Japan were reported to be meeting in Seoul on Tuesday as well.
The North Korean launch would be the latest weapons test by the country, which has pressed ahead with military development in the face of international sanctions imposed over its nuclear weapons and missile programs.
The missile was launched about 10:17 a.m. local time from the sea in the vicinity of Sinpo, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said, where North Korea keeps submarines as well as equipment for test firing SLBMs.
It was not immediately clear whether the missile was fired from a submarine or from a submersible test barge, as in most previous tests.
“Our military is closely monitoring the situation and maintaining readiness posture in close cooperation with the US, to prepare for possible additional launches,” JCS said in a statement.
South Korea’s national security council held an emergency meeting and expressed “deep regret” over the test, urging the North to resume talks.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said that two ballistic missiles had been detected, and that it was “regrettable” that North Korea had conducted a string of missile tests in recent weeks.
There was no immediate explanation from South Korea’s JCS for the conflicting number of missiles detected.
Kishida canceled scheduled campaign appearances in northern Japan, and the deputy chief cabinet secretary told reporters that Kishida was planning to return to Tokyo to deal with the missile situation.
South Korea’s unification ministry, which handles inter-Korean relations, said daily routine liaison calls with the North were conducted normally on Tuesday.