North Korea launched a long-range ballistic missile into the sea off its east coast on Saturday, after Pyongyang warned of a strong response to upcoming US-South Korea military drills.

Iran PressAsia: Japanese authorities said it splashed down in waters inside Japan's exclusive economic zone more than an hour after it was launched, suggesting the weapon was one of the North's largest missiles.

North Korea's first missile firing since Jan. 1 comes after Pyongyang threatened on Friday an "unprecedentedly persistent, strong" response as South Korea and the United States gear up for annual military exercises as part of efforts to fend off the North's growing nuclear and missile threats.

North Korea fired an unprecedented number of missiles last year, including intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that could strike anywhere in the United States, while resuming preparations for its first nuclear test since 2017.

Saturday's long-range missile was launched from the Sunan area near Pyongyang, South Korea's military said. Sunan is the site of the Pyongyang International Airport, where North Korea has conducted most of its recent ICBM tests.

Pyongyang says its weapons development is necessary to counter "hostile policies" by Washington and its allies, Reuters reported.

Allied nuclear drills, called the Deterrence Strategy Committee Tabletop Exercise, are scheduled for Wednesday at the Pentagon and will involve senior defence policymakers from both sides, Seoul's defence ministry said.


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