A South Korean soldier walks past a television news screen showing file footage of a North Korean missile test, at a railway station in Seoul, South Korea, on January 5, 2022. (Photo by AFP)
South Korea and Japan say the North has fired a projectile, apparently a ballistic missile, in the first such launch of the year, hours before Seoul renewed calls for talks.
The presumed land-based missile was launched from the east coast of North Korea and landed in the East Sea on Wednesday, according to the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS).
"Our military is maintaining readiness posture in preparation for a possible additional launch while closely monitoring the situation in close cooperation with the United States," the JCS said in a statement.
Japanís Defense Ministry said the missile flew about 500 km before landing in waters outside Japanís exclusive economic zone.
Japanís Prime Minister Fumio Kishida condemned the launch and described it as "very regrettable."
"We find it truly regrettable that North Korea has continued to fire missiles from last year," he told reporters.
Kishida said he had ordered officials to confirm the safety of ships and planes in the area where the projectile likely flew and fell.
Meanwhile, South Koreaís National Security Council convened an emergency meeting, expressing concern that the launch "came at a time when internal and external stability is extremely important."
The council called on Pyongyang to return to talks on dismantling its nuclear weapons.
The North successfully launched a new type of submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) in October, which according to Pyongyang had "lots of advanced control guidance technologies."
Pyongyang is under harsh UN sanctions for its missile and nuclear activities.
Just hours after the Wednesday launch, South Korean President Moon Jae-in visited the South Korean eastern coastal city of Goseong near the border with the North, where he attended a ceremony for a rail line that he hopes will eventually connect the two Koreas.
He said the rail line was "a stepping stone for peace and regional balance" on the divided Korean Peninsula.
Despite the latest missile test, Moon said he would not give up hope for dialog with North Korea, according to his office.
"We should not give up the hope for dialogue in order to fundamentally overcome this situation," he said. "If both Koreas work together and build trust, peace would be achieved one day."
The two Koreas are still technically at war as the 1950-53 war between them ended in a truce and not a peace treaty.
Communication between the two neighbors has largely been cut since 2019.
South Korea test-fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile of its own for the first time in September.