North Korea has fired a suspected ballistic missile, the fourth such in a week, towards the sea off the east coast of the Korean Peninsula on Sunday, officials from South Korea and Japan said.

Officials from Japan’s defence ministry and coast guard said that a likely North Korean projectile was fired in the morning but did not share more details.

South Korea said North fired a ballistic missile towards its eastern waters, reported Yonhap news agency.

The missile flew at an altitude of 50kms (31 miles) and covered a range of 800kms (497 miles) before landing in the sea, the Japanese defence ministry said. This was further confirmed by South Korea which said that the projectile flew for 800kms before hitting the target.

The Japanese defence ministry has said that the country will “strongly protest” the North Korean missile launch via Beijing embassy.

South Korea called Sunday’s test launch of a ballistic missile a “clear violation of the UN security council resolution”, referring to the United Nations policy which bars North Korea from testing a nuclear weapon.

The Kim Jong-un regime has already fired three ballistic missiles – one intercontinental and two short-range – this week, of which two were fired on Thursday just hours before the South Korean president’s flight to Tokyo for a summit.

This is the third such test launch of weapons by Pyongyang after the US and South Korea put up a joint force in the Korean peninsula and kick-started their joint military drills last week.

South Korean and American forces are carrying out an 11-day joint military drill, dubbed “Freedom Shield 23” in the wake of a rising chance of North Korea’s anticipated nuclear test this year.

North Korea has called the military drills a ramp to practise the launch of an invasion even as the US  and South Korea have called their training exercise defensive in nature.

These drills, including computer simulations and field exercises, will continue till Thursday.

An intelligence report from Washington last week said that Mr Kim will “probably” test a nuclear weapon this year as he looks to bolster his atomic arsenal. The 2023 annual threat assessment report added that the North Korean leader is likely to continue firing nuclear-capable missiles in an effort “to normalise Pyongyang’s missile testing”.

In February this year, North Korea tested its longest-range Hwasong-17 intercontinental ballistic missile designed to strike the US mainland in a surprise drill.

Mr Kim called for an exponential increase in North Korea’s weapons production and declared the nation an “irreversible” nuclear power.

The Kim regime also fired cruise missiles from a submarine a day before the drills started, with the state media calling the submarine-launched missile a demonstration of its resolve to respond with “overwhelming powerful” force to the intensifying military maneuvers by “the US imperialists and the South Korean puppet forces.”

In a sharp attack on Pyongyang’s rivals, North Korea’s state media claimed that “provocations” by Washington and Seoul “are crossing a line that can no longer be tolerated” on Saturday.

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