The US defence department says the launch appears to be that of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
South Korea’s military and Shinzo Abe, Japan’s prime minister, confirmed the report of Friday’s launch. In Seoul and Tokyo, the governments convened meetings of their national security councils.
“There is a possibility that it landed within our EEZ [exclusive economic zone],” Abe said in Tokyo.
“We will be analysing it immediately and do our best for the safety of our people.”
Captain Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesperson, said the launch had been expected and took place at about 14:45 GMT from Mupyong-ni, an arms plant in northern North Korea.
He said the launch did not pose a threat to North America.
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency, citing the country’s military joint chiefs of staff, said the missile was launched from North Korea’s Jagang province, and landed in the East Sea.
A ’45-minute flight’
Quoting the Japanese chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, the Associated Press news agency said the missile “flew for about 45 minutes and appeared to have landed in the waters of Japan’s exclusive economic zone”.
The distance of the missile flight could have been more than 3,000km, Japan’s NHK said, quoting a defence official.
There were no immediate reports of damage.
The US military and South Korea had in recent days warned that North Korea appeared to be preparing for another missile test – possibly of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), or else an intermediate-range rocket.
Al Jazeera’s Kathy Novak, reporting from Seoul, said Friday’s apparent missile launch was “not entirely unexpected”.
“There were signs from officials in the United States and South Korea that preparations were being made for a missile launch in North Korea and that the Korean Peninsula was a high alert,” she said.
She also said Thursday marked the anniversary of the end of the Korean War, and “in the past North Korea has been known to take these proactive measures on important holidays”.
North Korea created a stir on July 4 when it test-fired its first ICBM, a Hwasong-14 missile, which experts believe could have the potential to reach Alaska.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who personally oversaw that launch on America’s Independence Day, described it as a gift to the “American bastards”.
North Korea is not believed to have yet developed the technology to miniaturise a nuclear weapon to fit in a missile’s warhead.
Tougher measures sought
The US launched a push at the UN for tougher measures against North Korea.
In all, six sets of UN sanctions have been imposed on North Korea since it first tested an atomic device in 2006, but two resolutions adopted last year significantly toughened the sanctions regime.
Al Jazeera’s Patty Culhane, reporting from Washington, DC, said the concern is that the North Korean missile fired on Friday may have been another ICBM.
“What the Pentagon is doing now is looking at the trajectory and trying to figure out how capable this missile is,” she said.
Incidentally, the US military is preparing to conduct another test of a missile-intercept system in Alaska, perhaps as soon as Saturday.
That test of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system had been scheduled before Friday’s developments.
The US has layers of missile defence capabilities comprising several components designed to take down different types of missile at different phases of flight.