TOKYO • North Korea launched a missile that fell into Japan's exclusive economic zone just before midnight yesterday, prompting Tokyo to warn that it would take every step necessary to ensure the safety of its citizens.
Japanese crisis management officials scrambled to the official residence of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe after the launch from North Korea's Chagang province was detected, and Japan issued a sailing warning.
A meeting of the National Security Council was convened by Mr Abe, reported Reuters.
South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff also confirmed the launch and President Moon Jae In convened an emergency national security meeting for early this morning.
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Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the missile flew for about 45 minutes before falling into the sea off Japan's coast.
He said that the North Korean missile launch was a clear violation of United Nations resolutions. There were no immediate reports of damage, he added.
In Washington, the Pentagon said it had detected a ballistic missile launch.
The launch came a day after North Koreans bowed before the mausoleum of founder Kim Il Sung and his son on Thursday as the country marked the end of the Korean War, which it calls Victory Day.
There had been widespread speculation in US and South Korean intelligence circles that the North might choose to mark the anniversary with a fresh missile launch, after its first successful test earlier this month of an intercontinental ballistic missile that experts judged was capable of reaching Alaska or Hawaii, reported Agence France-Presse.
However, no such launch materialised on Thursday.
One US defence official had said that the test to mark the anniversary would be of either an intermediate range missile or North Korea's ICBM known as a KN-20 or a Hwasong-14.
American intelligence agencies have shortened their estimate - to one year - of how long it is likely to take North Korea to put the finishing touches on a missile that can reach the continental United States, several administration officials briefed on the new assessment told The New York Times.
Until a few weeks ago, the official estimate was that it would take roughly four years for North Korea to develop such a missile.
But the realities of the past few months, especially a July 4 test that crossed a major threshold - if just barely - has forced intelligence experts to conclude that their estimates have been too conservative.