'North Korea has fired ballistic missile into sea'

AFP| Last Updated: Mar 18, 2016, 05:55 AM IST

North Korea fired a ballistic missile into the sea off its eastern coast Friday, just days after leader Kim Jong-Un ordered further nuclear warhead and missile tests, South Korea`s defence ministry said.

A ministry spokesman said the missile was launched from Sukchon in the country`s southwest at 5:55 am (2055 GMT Thursday) and flew 800 kilometres (500 miles) into the East Sea, also called the Sea of Japan.

He did not confirm the type of missile, but South Korea`s Yonhap news agency cited military sources as saying it was a Rodong missile, a scaled up Scud variant with a maximum range of around 1,300 kilometres.

Military tensions have been soaring on the divided Korean peninsula since the North carried out its fourth nuclear test on January 6, followed a month later by a long-range rocket launch that was widely seen as a disguised ballistic missile test.

The UN Security Council responded earlier this month by imposing its toughest sanctions on North Korea to date.

Pyongyang, meanwhile, has maintained a daily barrage of nuclear strike threats against both Seoul and Washington, ostensibly over ongoing, large-scale South Korea-US military drills that the North sees as provocative rehearsals for invasion.

To register its anger at the joint exercises, the North fired two short-range missiles into the East Sea on March 10.

A few days later, Kim Jong-Un announced that a nuclear warhead explosion test and firings of "several kinds" of ballistic rockets would be carried out "in a short time".