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N Korea at crossroads

North Korea fires ballistic missile toward sea, South Korea says

Launch is Pyongyang's 14th major weapons test this year

Kim Jong Un has pledged to speed up the development of North Korea's nuclear arsenal. (KCNA via Reuters)

SEOUL (Reuters) -- North Korea has fired a ballistic missile toward the sea off its east coast on Wednesday, South Korea's military said, about a week after the North vowed to develop its nuclear forces "at the fastest possible speed."

The launch, which marks the North's 14th major weapons test this year, comes days before South Korea's newly elected President Yoon Suk-yeol takes office on May 10.

South Korea's military said it detected the launch about noon in the Sunan area of Pyongyang. Sunan is where North Korea last fired what it claimed to be Hwasong-17, a "new type" of intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), on March 24.

Japan's Coast Guard also said that it had detected what appeared to be a ballistic missile fired from North Korea, and that the projectile had already landed.

Details of the projectile, including its flight range and altitude, were not immediately available.

The latest launch came less than three weeks after the North fired a new tactical guided weapon on April 16 aimed at boosting the country's nuclear capabilities.

Pyongyang has recently stepped up weapons tests, resuming long-range missile launches for first time since 2017 in March. Officials in Seoul and Washington say it may also be preparing for a new round of nuclear tests.

Last week, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pledged to speed up the development of his country's nuclear arsenal while overseeing a huge military parade as denuclearization talks with the United States remain stalled.

"Our military is maintaining readiness posture while closely monitoring related activities for possible additional launches," the South Korean military said in a statement.

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