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North Korea fires missile into sea, Seoul says

| Thursday, March 17, 2016, 8:57 p.m.

SEOUL — North Korea on Friday fired a medium-range ballistic missile into the sea, days after its leader Kim Jong Un ordered tests likely aimed at developing technology it needs to build a missile capable of reaching the American mainland.

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that the missile flew 500 miles before crashing off the North's east coast.

South Korean military officials said it wasn't immediately known what type of missile was fired. But a South Korean defense official, requesting anonymity citing department rules, said it is the first medium-range missile launched by the North since April 2014, when it fired two.

A senior American Defense official said the Pentagon can confirm that North Korea conducted a ballistic missile launch into the Sea of Japan. The official said it appeared to have been a Nodong medium-range ballistic missile.

He said the test constitutes a violation of multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions.

The launch occurred amid a heightened international standoff over the North's weapons programs in the aftermath of a recent nuclear test and long-range rocket launch.

In recent weeks, North Korea threatened pre-emptive nuclear strikes against Washington and Seoul and test-fired short-range missiles and artillery into the sea in response to tough U.N. sanctions imposed over its nuclear test and rocket launch. The North says it needs nuclear weapons to cope with what it calls U.S. military threats.

On Tuesday, North Korea's state media said Kim had ordered tests of a nuclear warhead and ballistic missiles capable of carrying warheads. Kim issued that order while overseeing a successful simulated test of a re-entry vehicle aimed at returning a nuclear warhead into the atmosphere from space so it could hit its intended target.

This led South Korean analysts to suspect that the North would likely fire a missile soon to test the re-entry technology.

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