The missile was fired from the Sunan area of North Korea around 7:52 a.m. local time, the statement said.
Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said North Korea has launched “at least one ballistic missile” that has traveled a distance of 300 kilometers (186 miles) and a maximum altitude of 600 kilometers (373 miles).
The latest launch also comes less than two weeks before South Korea’s March 9 presidential election, in which North Korea is likely to be a major electoral problem. If conservative candidate Yoon Suk Yeol is successful, analysts expect him to take a much tougher line against the north compared to current president Moon Jae-in.
Stepping up missile testing
North Korea has stepped up its missile tests in 2022 and has announced plans to strengthen its defenses against the United States and evaluate “resuming all temporarily suspended activities,” state media said.
During the Trump presidency, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un tested intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) that could theoretically reach the continental US, and used those tests for meetings with the then US president. Last year, during US President Joe Biden’s first appointment, North Korea conducted eight tests — none in the range of an ICBM.
Analysts suggest that the increased testing this year shows Kim is both striving to meet domestic goals and an increasingly turbulent world shows Pyongyang remains a player in the struggle for power and influence.
“North Korea will not please anyone to keep quiet while the world deals with Russian aggression against Ukraine,” Leif-Eric Easley, an associate professor of international studies at Ewha University in Seoul, said after Sunday’s test.
“Pyongyang has an ambitious military modernization program. The strength and legitimacy of the Kim regime is linked to the testing of increasingly better missiles.”