The reclusive state has also conducted two nuclear weapons tests since January 2016.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un supervised a ballistic rocket-launching drill of Hwasong artillery units of the Strategic Force of the KPA on the spot in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in this file photo.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un supervised a ballistic rocket-launching drill of Hwasong artillery units of the Strategic Force of the KPA on the spot in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in this file photo.

North Korea has test-fired a ballistic missile into the sea from its port city of Sinpo on the country's east coast on Wednesday, South Korea's Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a short statement.

The launch comes just a day before the start of a summit meeting between US President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping, where the two leaders are set to discuss Pyongyang's nuclear arms programme.

TRT World's Nafisa Latic has more.

Regional reaction

"The launch took place possibly in consideration of the US-China summit, while at the same time it was to check its missile capability," a South Korean official told the media.

Any launch of objects using ballistic missile technology is a violation of UN Security Council resolutions. The North has defied the ban, saying it infringes on its sovereign rights to self-defence and the pursuit of space exploration.

The launch drew swift condemnation from Japan, with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe saying Japan would cooperate closely with the United States and South Korea to protect people's lives and well-being.

South Korea's foreign ministry also condemned the launch saying it was "a blunt challenge to a series of Security Council resolutions... and an act to threaten the peace and safety of the international community as well as the Korean peninsula."

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in a very short statement said the United States has "spoken enough" about North Korea. "We have no further comment," he added.

ICBM threat

North Korea failed in an attempt to launch a ballistic missile two weeks ago from its east coast. Earlier in March, it fired four missiles towards Japan, some of which came as close as 300 km (190 miles) to its coast.

Pyongyang tested a new type of medium to long-range ballistic missile in February, which it later said was an upgraded, extended-range version of its submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM).

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un supervising a ballistic rocket-launching drill in this undated file photo.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un supervising a ballistic rocket-launching drill in this undated file photo.

North Korea is believed to be developing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that can hit the United States and its leader, Kim Jong un, has vowed to test-launch one at any time.

Experts and officials in the South and the United States believe Pyongyang is still some time away from mastering all the technology needed for an operational ICBM system, such as re-entry of the atmosphere and subsequent missile guidance.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies