North Korea launches long-range missile ahead of Japan-South Korea talks

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People in Seoul watch news of a long-range missile launch Thursday morning

North Korea has launched an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) just hours before the leaders of South Korea and Japan meet for a key summit.

Japanese and South Korean officials both confirmed the launch of a long-range missile on Thursday morning.

It flew about 1,000 km (620 mi) and landed in the waters west of Japan.

It was the fourth missile launched from Pyongyang in the past week – although the other rounds were shorter ranges.

The move comes amid ongoing naval exercises between the US and South Korea around the Korean Peninsula – the allies’ largest in five years. North Korea has consistently called such drills a provocation.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said the missile was launched at 07:10 (22:10 GMT) from Pyongyang on North Korea’s east coast.

Japan’s Defense Ministry confirmed it was an ICBM type and said it flew more than 6,000 km for about 70 minutes.

Following Thursday’s launch, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol ordered his country’s military to continue the US joint exercises as planned.

He added that Pyongyang would pay for its “irresponsible provocations”.

North Korea last fired an ICBM a month ago – prompting an emergency UN meeting and condemnation from the G7 nations.

ICBMs are particularly worrisome because of their long range, including over the continental United States.

The meeting – hailed as a “milestone” in South Korea and Japan’s rapprochement – is expected by many to lead to closer security ties and military cooperation between the two countries in the face of North Korean aggression.

Both countries said they would convene their National Security Councils following Thursday’s missile launch.

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