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North Korea shoots a medium-range missile into the waters to the east, according to South Korea

In South Korea, North Korea test-fired a suspected intermediate-range ballistic missile towards the waters off its eastern coast on Tuesday, as part of its efforts to improve its weapons capable of reaching remote U.S. targets in the Pacific.

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea fired what is believed to be a medium-range ballistic missile towards the eastern coast on Tuesday, South Korea’s military reported, as it aims to improve its weapons targeted at distant U.S. areas in the Pacific.

South Korea’s military said the missile was launched from an area close to the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, and flew about 372 miles before landing in the sea between the Korean Peninsula and Japan. The South Korean military did not immediately provide other details about the flight, including whether it had determined if North Korea had tested the missile at less than its capacity or used new technologies.

Japan’s Defense Ministry provided more details, stating that the missile traveled about 403 miles and reached a maximum altitude of 62 miles before landing in waters outside of Japan’s exclusive economic zone. The Japanese military did not immediately state whether it classified the missile as intermediate range or something else.

Last month, North Korea claimed it tested a solid-fuel engine for its newly developed medium-range hypersonic missile, which, if successful, could reach the U.S. Pacific military hub of Guam and beyond.

This was the first known launch event by North Korea since March 18, when North Korean leader Kim Jong Un oversaw a live-fire exercise of artillery systems designed to target South Korea’s capital.

Japan’s coast guard confirmed the Defense Ministry’s assessment that the missile has already landed, but still cautioned vessels passing through the area.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida stated that no harm from the missile has been reported. He warned that North Korea’s frequent missile launches pose a threat to the peace and safety of not only Japan, but also the region and international security.

Tensions in the region have escalated since 2022, as Kim exploited Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to quicken his testing of missiles and other weapons. In response, the United States and South Korea have increased their joint training and trilateral drills involving Japan, as well as enhanced their deterrence strategies centered around strategic U.S. assets.

There are concerns that North Korea may intensify pressure in an election year in the United States and South Korea.

Following the March 19 test of the solid-fuel IRBM engine, Kim emphasized the strategic importance of such weapons, which would be as significant as his intercontinental ballistic missiles targeting the U.S. mainland.

In recent years, North Korea has been concentrating on developing more weapons with built-in solid propellants, which are simpler to transport and conceal and can be launched more quickly than liquid-propellant missiles that require fueling prior to launch and cannot remain fueled for long periods.

Kim has also pledged to obtain hypersonic missiles that can overpower its adversaries’ missile defense systems. Among the other weapons North Korea has tested this year are cruise missiles and “super-large” multiple rocket launchers aimed at the Seoul capital area.

North Korea confirmed its intention to launch several surveillance satellites this year. South Korea's military stated on Monday that there were no indications of an imminent satellite launch at North Korea's main launch site in the northwest.

Kim has emphasized the importance of satellites for observing U.S. and South Korean military activities and increasing the threat of his nuclear-capable missiles. In November, North Korea successfully deployed a military reconnaissance satellite into orbit for the first time.

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