North Korea fires ballistic missile ahead of US VP Harris' visit to Seoul

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SEOUL: North Korea fired an unidentified ballistic missile towards the sea off its east coast on Sunday (Sep 25), South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said, ahead of planned military drills by South Korean and US forces involving an aircraft carrier and a visit to the region by US Vice President Kamala Harris.

South Korea's military said it was a single, short-range ballistic missile fired from near the Taechon area of North Pyongyan Province just before 7am local time.

Japan's Defence Minister Yasukazu Hamada said Japan estimated it reached maximum altitude at 50km and may have flown on an irregular trajectory. Hamada said it fell outside Japan's exclusive economic zone and there were no reports of problems with shipping or air traffic.

Many of the short-range missiles tested by North Korea in recent years have been designed to evade missile defences by manoeuvring during flight and flying on a lower, "depressed" trajectory, experts have said.

"If you include launches of cruise missiles this is the nineteenth launch, which is an unprecedented pace. North Korea's action represent a threat to the peace and security of our country, the region and the international community and to do this as the Ukraine invasion unfolds is unforgivable," Hamada said, adding that Japan had delivered a protest through North Korea's embassy in Beijing.

The US Indo-pacific Command said it was aware of the launch and consulting closely with allies, in a statement released after the launch, while reaffirming US commitment to the defence of South Korea and Japan.

"While we have assessed that this event does not pose an immediate threat to US personnel or territory, or to our allies, the missile launch highlights the destabilising impact of the DPRK's unlawful Weapons of Mass Destruction and ballistic missile programs

The launch comes after the arrival of the nuclear-powered American aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan in South Korea to participate in joint drills with South Korean forces, and ahead of a planned visit to Seoul this week by Harris.

It was the first time the North carried out such a launch after firing eight short-range ballistic missiles in one day in early June, which led the United States to call for more sanctions for violating UN Security Council resolutions.

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