South Korean military officials say North Korea has fired a ballistic missile into the ocean off its eastern coast, the latest in a series of missile tests.
The U.S. military said it detected two simultaneous missile launches, one was successful and the other exploded immediately after launch.
Officials say the missile, believed to be a medium-range Rodong missile, was fired just before 8 a.m. Wednesday from Unyul in the country’s western Hwanghae province and flew about 1,000 kilometers before landing in or close to Japanese waters.
A statement from the Joint Chiefs of Staff said the missile launch signaled the North’s “ambition to attack neighboring countries.”
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called the missile launch a "grave threat" to Japan’s security and expressed strong objections to the North’s continued ballistic missile aspirations.
The United States immediately responded to the test Wednesday, warning the North Koreans that it is ready to defend itself and its allies from any provocation.
"We are aware of reports that the DPRK (North Korea) fired ballistic missiles," said State Department spokeswoman Anna Richey-Allen. "We remain prepared to work with our allies and partners around the world to respond to further DPRK provocations, as well as to defend ourselves and our allies from any attack or provocation."
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also condemned the test Wednesday, saying he was "deeply troubled" and warned that such tests are a threat to regional peace and stability.
"We reiterate the call on the DPRK to heed the united call of the international community to reverse its course and return to the process of sincere dialogue," said U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric.
This latest missile launch is the fourth carried out in about two weeks. All are in defiance of a U.N. resolution prohibiting Pyongyang from developing ballistic missiles.
On July 19, North Korea fired three missiles into the sea in what state media called a simulation of a pre-emptive atomic attack on South Korea.
North Korea is seeking to develop a warhead small enough to be placed on a long-rang missile that can reach the continental United States. But South Korean defense officials say Pyongyang does not yet have such a miniaturized warhead.