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N Korea at crossroads

North Korea fires what appears to be ballistic missile: Japan

Pyongyang U.N. ambassador stresses country's 'righteous right to self-defense'

North Korea tested short-range ballistic missiles earlier this month.

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- North Korea on Tuesday fired what appeared to be a ballistic missile in the second such launch this month, with the projectile believed to have splashed into waters outside of Japan's exclusive economic zone, Japanese government officials said.

South Korea's military said North Korea fired a short-range missile at around 6:40 a.m. into the sea off its east coast from Mupyong-ri, an inland location in Jagang Province near the border with China.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said he instructed government officials to ensure the safety of marine and air traffic and prepare for contingencies.

"We are stepping up surveillance efforts and analyzing the situation," he told reporters.

South Korea's National Security Council held an emergency meeting where the members were briefed of North Korea's missile launch and expressed "regret" over it.

"(The NSC members) decided to cooperate with related countries, especially the United States, while closely monitoring North Korea's future movements," the country's presidential office said in a statement.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in ordered his national security team to "thoroughly analyze" the intentions behind North Korea's latest missile launch and its recent statements on inter-Korean relations.

The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said in a statement that it has assessed that "this event does not pose an immediate threat to U.S. personnel or territory, or to our allies" but emphasized that the missile launch highlights the "destabilizing impact" of the North Korea's "illicit weapons program."

"The U.S. commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea and Japan remains ironclad," it added.

The launch came just days after Kim Yo Jong, the influential younger sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left the door open for an inter-Korean summit while criticizing what she called an "arms buildup" by the United States and South Korea. North Korea fired two ballistic missiles into waters within Japan's exclusive economic zone on Sept. 15 in the first test firing of such weapons in nearly six months.

According to Japan's analysis, the two missiles reached an altitude of about 50 kilometers and flew around 750 km before falling in waters off the Noto Peninsula.

Their launch raised fresh alarm in Japan as it prepares to see a new government following the leadership election of its biggest ruling party on Wednesday.

North Korea has said the Sept. 15 launch was a test of a "railway-borne missile system" and that the objective was to strike a target area 800 km off its east coast.

In New York on Monday, North Korea's ambassador to the United Nations, Kim Song, said its possession of weapons in line with the "righteous right to self-defense" has helped to deter threats from the United States and prevent war on the Korean Peninsula.

The envoy also urged the United States to give up its "hostile policy" toward Pyongyang. His remarks made in an address to the annual U.N. General Assembly did not touch on the latest launch.

North Korea's latest missile launch comes on the same day as the country is likely to hold a parliamentary session.

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