North Korea fired a ballistic missile toward the Sea of Japan on Sunday, the South Korean military said, a day after Pyongyang fired three short-range ballistic missiles toward the sea.
The North said Sunday it had tested "super-large multiple rocket launchers" on both days, with three shells precisely hitting a target on Saturday to demonstrate their combat performance, according to the official Korean Central News Agency.
The projectile fired at 2:50 a.m. from the Ryongsong area in Pyongyang flew some 400 kilometers before splashing into the sea, the South Korean military's Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
It is unusual for the North to launch a missile on New Year's Day. KCNA also said the super-large rocket launcher system is capable of carrying tactical nuclear warheads and has all of South Korea within its range.
Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said the projectile flew some 350 km at a maximum altitude of around 100 km and appears to have fallen outside Japan's exclusive economic zone. No damage to aircraft or ships has been reported, a Japanese government official said.
Tokyo has lodged a protest with North Korea via the Japanese Embassy in Beijing over the latest launch.
The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said the latest missile firing, alongside the three launches conducted less than 24 hours earlier, "highlights the destabilizing impact" of Pyongyang's unlawful weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs.
It added Washington's commitments to the defense of South Korea and Japan "remain ironclad."
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida instructed officials to swiftly provide necessary information to the public, ensure the safety of aircraft and ships, and prepare for contingencies.
North Korea launched missiles, including intercontinental ballistic missiles, on a record 37 occasions last year in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions.