North Korea on Tuesday fired what appeared to be a ballistic missile in the second such launch in two weeks, with the projectile believed to have splashed into waters outside of Japan's exclusive economic zone, Japanese government officials said.
South Korea's military said North Korea fired a short-range missile at around 6:40 a.m. into the sea off its east coast from Mupyong-ri, an inland location in Jagang Province near the border with China.
It did not say whether the projectile was a ballistic missile, which North Korea is banned from testing under U.N. Security Council resolutions.
The launch was the latest in a recent series by North Korea. On Sept. 13, state-run media said the country had carried out tests of a new long-range cruise missile.
Two days later, the country fired two ballistic missiles into waters within Japan's exclusive economic zone in the first test of such weapons in nearly six months.
Japan's top government spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato, on Tuesday condemned North Korea's recent activity as "threatening the peace and safety of our country and the entire region" and a "serious problem for the international community."
No harm to Japanese aircraft or ships has been reported in the latest incident, he said in a press conference.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told reporters that Japan is "stepping up surveillance efforts and analyzing the situation."
South Korea's National Security Council held an emergency meeting where its members were briefed on the missile launch and expressed "regret" over it.
"(The NSC members) decided to cooperate with related countries, especially the United States, while closely monitoring North Korea's future movements," the presidential office said in a statement.
South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported the missile flew less than 200 kilometers and reached an altitude of about 30 km.
South Korean President Moon Jae In ordered his national security team to "thoroughly analyze" the intentions behind the launch and North Korea's recent statements on inter-Korean relations.
Just days earlier, Kim Yo Jong, the influential younger sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left the door open for an inter-Korean summit while criticizing what she called an "arms buildup" by the United States and South Korea.
North Korea's latest missile launch came on the same day the country is likely to hold a parliamentary session.
The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said in a statement that it assessed the latest incident as not posing "an immediate threat to U.S. personnel or territory, or to our allies" but emphasized the missile launch highlights the "destabilizing impact" of North Korea's "illicit weapons program."
"The U.S. commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea and Japan remains ironclad," it added.
According to Japan's analysis, the two ballistic missiles launched earlier this month reached an altitude of about 50 km and flew around 750 km before falling in waters off the Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa Prefecture.
The missiles have raised fresh alarm in Japan as it prepares to see a new government following the leadership election of its main ruling party on Wednesday.
North Korea has said the Sept. 15 launch was a test of a "railway-borne missile system" and that the objective was to strike a target area 800 km off its east coast.
In New York on Monday, shortly after the latest launch, North Korea's ambassador to the United Nations, Kim Song, said its possession of weapons in line with the "righteous right to self-defense" has helped to deter threats from the United States and prevent war on the Korean Peninsula.
The envoy also urged the United States to give up its "hostile policy" and "double standards" toward Pyongyang, accusing Washington of continuing to develop its own weapons and carry out military exercises with Seoul.
His remarks, made in an address to the annual U.N. General Assembly, however, did not touch on the latest launch.