North Korea fired a ballistic missile on Friday that flew about 800 kilometers (500 miles) off its east coast into the sea, South Korea’s military said, days after fresh US sanctions were imposed on the isolated state.
The missile was likely a medium-range Rodong missile, Reuters said, citing a report by South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.
The launch comes amid heightened tension on the Korean peninsula with the North remaining defiant in the face of the UN Security Council sanctions imposed earlier in the month in response to a nuclear test conducted in January.
The missile was launched from an area near the west coast north of the capital Pyongyang, flying across the peninsula and into the sea off the east coast early Friday morning, the South’s Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.
Reuters said 800 km was likely beyond the range of most short-range missiles in the North’s arsenal. Pyongyang last test fired medium-range missiles in 2014.
The North fired two short-range missiles last week into the sea off its east coast and its leader Kim Jong-un ordered more nuclear weapons test and missile tests to improve attack capability.
North Korea often fires missiles at periods of tension on the Korean peninsula or when it comes under pressure to curb its defiance and abandon its weapons program.
New US sanctions on Pyongyang were issued on Wednesday, aiming to expand US blockade against the isolated state by blacklisting individuals and entities that deal with the North’s economy.
Beijing voiced its opposition to the unilateral sanctions, saying they could further raise tensions on the peninsula.
North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test in Jan. 6 and launched a long-range rocket on Feb. 7 in defiance of existing UN Security Council resolutions.
On Wednesday, North Korea’s supreme court sentenced a visiting American student to 15 years of hard labor for crimes against the state, a punishment Washington condemned as politically motivated.
The North’s state media said the student, Otto Warmbier, had tried to steal an item bearing a political slogan.
A state media picture showed a banner, presented as evidence during his one-hour trial, appearing to bear a slogan extolling the country’s late leader Kim Jong-il.
Although the name was censored in the photograph, it is likely the slogan read: “Let’s arm ourselves strongly with Kim Jong-il patriotism!”
Images and references to North Korea’s leaders, who are treated with almost god-like status in propaganda, are sacrosanct.
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