(2nd LD) N. Korea fires 1 long-range ballistic missile toward East Sea ahead of planned S. Korea-Japan summit
(ATTN: UPDATES with more details in paras 4, 6-8; ADDS byline)
By Song Sang-ho
SEOUL, March 16 (Yonhap) -- North Korea fired a long-range ballistic missile toward the East Sea on Thursday, Seoul's military said, hours before the leaders of South Korea and Japan are set to meet to discuss the recalcitrant regime's evolving threats and other shared challenges.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said it detected the launch from the Sunan area in Pyongyang at 7:10 a.m. It did not immediately provide other details.
"While strengthening its monitoring and vigilance, our military is maintaining a full readiness posture in close cooperation with the United States," the JCS said in a text message sent to reporters.
The North previously fired what it claimed to be a Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) at a lofted angle on Feb. 18. It flew 989 kilometers at an apogee of 5,768.5 km, according to its state media.
President Yoon Suk Yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida plan to hold a summit in Tokyo, where the North's nuclear and missile threats are expected to be high on their agenda.
The North's growing nuclear and missile threats have created fresh momentum for Seoul and Tokyo to move beyond their historical feuds and work together to confront the security challenge.
The latest launch came amid the ongoing South Korea-U.S. Freedom Shield (FS) exercise. The North has decried the exercise as "preparations for a war of aggression" and threatened to take "overwhelming" action against military activities by the allies.
The North's tough rhetoric has stoked concerns that it could ratchet up tensions with more powerful provocations, such as a solid-propellant ICBM test, the launch of an ICBM at a standard angle and even a nuclear test.
The North fired two short-range ballistic missiles Tuesday and what it claimed to be two "strategic cruise missiles" from a submarine two days earlier. The launches were seen as a response to the FS exercise.
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