People watch a news programme, showing file footage of a North Korean missile launch, at a railway station in Seoul on Sunday. Pic/AFP
North Korea fired a ballistic missile in defiance of calls to rein in its weapons programme, days after a new leader in its old rival South Korea came to power, pledging to engage it in dialogue.
The US Pacific Command said it was assessing the type of missile, but it was "not consistent with an intercontinental ballistic missile". Japanese Defence Minister Tomomi Inada said the missile could be of a new type.
The missile flew 700 km and reached an altitude of more than 2,000 km, according to officials in South Korea and Japan, further and higher than an intermediate-range missile North Korea successfully tested in February from the same region of Kusong, northwest of its capital, Pyongyang.
Experts said the altitude the missile tested yesterday reached meant it was launched at a high trajectory, which would limit the lateral distance it travelled. But if it was fired at a standard trajectory, it would have a range of at least 4,000 km (2,500 miles), experts said.
Kim Dong-yub, of Kyungnam University's Institute of Far Eastern Studies in Seoul, said he estimated a standard trajectory would give it a range of 6,000 km. Japan said the missile flew for 30 minutes before dropping into the sea between North Korea's east coast and Japan. The North has consistently test-fired missiles in that direction.