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North Korea launches ballistic missile — Japanese coast guards

Vessels in the region have been advised to stay away from potential wreckage

TOKYO, March 19. /TASS/. North Korea launched what is presumed to be a ballistic missile on Sunday, Japanese coast guards reported.

Vessels in the region were advised to stay away from potential debris and immediately contact the authorities if they come across any of them.

Later in the day, the government of Japan expressed its protest in connection with the launch.

"Such actions by North Korea threaten the peace and security of Japan and the entire international community. They are absolutely unacceptable," Japan’s Parliamentary Vice-Minister of Defense Toshiro Ino said. "In this regard, we expressed protest via the embassy in Beijing."

The official said the missile covered the distance of around 800 kilometers, reaching the maximum altitude of 50 kilometers, and fell outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone. "There is a possibility that the missile changed the flight trajectory as it flew," he added.

Meanwhile, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said one short-range ballistic missile was fired towards the Sea of Japan on Sunday.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) were quoted as saying that the launch was detected at 11:05 a.m. local time (05:05 Moscow time). The missile took off from the Tongchang-ri area on the country's west coast, which is home to Pyongyang’s key launch site.

"The intelligence authorities of South Korea and the United States are conducting a comprehensive analysis on [the missile's] specifics," the agency quoted JCS as saying in a statement.

The South Korean military also strongly condemned Pyongyang’s ballistic missile launches, calling them a violation of UN Security Council resolution and a "provocation that harms peace and stability not only on the Korean Peninsula, but also in the international community."

"While strengthening its monitoring and vigilance in preparation against the possibility of additional provocations, our military is maintaining a full readiness posture in close cooperation with the United States," the JCS said.

The previous North Korean missile launch took place just three days ago, on March 16. It was North Korea’s eighth missile test this year.