North Korea test fires ‘at least one ballistic missile’: Japan, South Korea say

North Korea launched a ballistic missile off the east coast of the Korean Peninsula on Sunday, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

The missile was fired from the Sunan area of North Korea at around 7.52am local time, the Joint Chiefs said.

Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said North Korea launched “at least one ballistic missile,” that flew a distance of 300 kilometers and to a maximum altitude of 600 kilometers.

Sunday’s missile firing is Pyongyang’s first since January 30 local time, when it fired what it claimed was a Hwasong-12 intermediate range ballistic missile (IRBM), its longest range ballistic missile since 2017.

Sunday’s test was of a missile of shorter range than that test, according to the estimates provided by Japan.

South Korea’s National Security Council (NSC) said the launch was “undesirable” for peace stabilization while the world is trying to resolve the Ukraine war, according to the Blue House, South Korean presidential office.

NSC also expressed “deep concern and severe regret” over the launch, which marks the eighth missile test this year, and urged the North to “immediately stop actions contrary to peaceful resolution through diplomacy.”

North Korea has ramped up its missile testing in 2022. In the first four weeks of 2022 alone, North Korea launched seven missile tests, but none of those were of its longest range missiles.

The newest launch comes less than two weeks ahead of the South Korea presidential election on March 9, in which North Korea is likely to be a key electoral issue.