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North Korea fires suspected intermediate-range ballistic missile

SEOUL — North Korea fired a suspected intermediate-range ballistic missile into the sea off its east coast on April 2, South Korea's military said, in a move that sparked immediate condemnation from the prime minister of Japan.

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said that it detected the launch of what appeared to be a ballistic missile of an intermediate-range class from the area of the North Korean capital Pyongyang at 6.53am.

The statement from the Joint Chiefs of Staff did not specify the exact type of missile, but North Korea has been testing a new intermediate-range hypersonic missile powered by a solid-fuel engine.

In March, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un oversaw a ground test of a solid-fuel engine for a new type of intermediate-range hypersonic missile to develop national defence capability, state media reported.

Japan's coast guard said the apparent missile had already fallen into the sea. It appeared to have fallen outside of Japan's exclusive economic zone (EEZ), broadcaster NHK said.

Amid concerns Russia and North Korea are developing closer military links, the United States and its major Asian allies South Korea and Japan are expanding security co-operation.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida condemned North Korea for the missile launch that affected the peace and stability of the region, he told reporters.

North Korea recently said it had no interest in a summit with Japan and would reject any talks, potentially worsening already-hostile relations between the two countries.

The United States government is arranging a summit between President Joe Biden and his Japanese and South Korean counterparts in July on the sidelines of a Nato summit in Washington, Japanese media outlets reported.

North Korea