North Korea has drawn condemnation from Japan and the US after the apparent test of a submarine-launched missile. The launch comes a day after the US and South Korea announced a new missile defense system.
North Korea fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) Saturday, but the launch appeared to have failed in the early stages of flight, South Korea's military said.
"The North launched what was believed to be an SLBM from waters off the port of Sinpo at around 11:30 a.m. (0230 UTC)," the South Korean Defense Ministry said in a statement.
Further details were not available.
North Korea already has a considerable arsenal of land-based ballistic missiles and is believed to be advancing its efforts to miniaturize nuclear warheads and increase the range of its rockets.
North Korea test-fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile in April, calling it a success that strengthened its ability to attack enemies with a "dagger of destruction."
The latest test comes a day after Washington and Seoul announced the deployment of an advanced Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile defense system designed to intercept missiles during re-entry.
'Dagger of destruction'
The multi-billion-euro THAAD system is to be deployed to the Korean peninsula over the objections of neighboring China and Russia, which say a missile defense system would disrupt the balance of power that exists between nuclear-armed nations.
But regional tensions have soared since Pyongyang carried out its fourth nuclear test in January, followed by a series of missile launches that analysts said show the North is making progress toward being able to strike US bases in the Pacific and Japan.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Saturday the launch was a "clear challenge to UN Security Council resolutions," the private Kyodo news agency reported.
"We should strongly condemn the launch by working with the international community," Abe told reporters, while at the same time claiming the launch would not gravely affect Japan's national security.
The US State Department also condemned the missile test, calling on North Korea "to refrain from actions that further raise tensions in the region."
Pyongyang further lashed out at the US on Friday, warning North Korea would instantly cut off all diplomatic channels with Washington if the sanctions against the country's leadership were not lifted.
North Korea's Foreign Ministry called the sanctions against supreme leader Kim Jong Un "the worst hostility and an open declaration of war," vowing to take "the toughest countermeasures to resolutely shatter the hostility of the US."
The UN Security Council has also imposed harsh new sanctions on the country in response to North Korea's fourth nuclear test and the long-range rocket.