North Korea fired a ballistic missile off its east coast on Wednesday, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said, barely a month after Pyongyang's last launch and is its twelfth this year.
Japan's Coast Guard said the missile appeared likely to land outside Japan's exclusive economic zone about 550km (340 miles) east of the Korean peninsula at around 11:13 a.m. local time (0213 GMT).
The South Korean military said it was a long range missile.
Precursor to the launch
The launch comes after North Korea made heated complaints in recent days over US military activities, accusing American spy planes of violating airspace in its economic zones and condemning a recent visit to South Korea by an American nuclear-powered cruise missile submarine.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who is in Lithuania to attend the NATO summit, ordered his staff to gather information and stay alert to prepare for unpredicted events, according to the prime minister's office.
This year North Korea has test fired its first ever solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), and conducted a failed attempt to launch its first-ever spy satellite on a new launch vehicle. United Nations Security Council resolutions ban North Korea's use of ballistic missile technology, including for satellite launches.
The Security Council, as well as a number of nations, have imposed sanction on North Korea for its missile and nuclear weapons programs.
Analysts say commercial satellite imagery shows North Korea is expected to stage displays of military force, including a large parade, for an upcoming holiday on July 27 that commemorates its claim to victory in the 1950-1953 Korean War against the United States, South Korea, and their allies.
Kim Yo Jong, the powerful sister of leader Kim Jong Un, on Tuesday accused a US military spy plane of entering the country's Exclusive Economic Zone eight times, state media KCNA reported.
"Kim Yo Jong’s bellicose statement against US surveillance aircraft is part of a North Korean pattern of inflating external threats to rally domestic support and justify weapons tests, said Leif-Eric Easley, an international studies professor at Ewha Womans University in Seoul.
"Pyongyang also times its shows of force to disrupt what it perceives as diplomatic coordination against it, in this case, South Korea and Japan’s leaders meeting during the NATO summit."