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Wednesday, August 24, 2016, 09:07

DPRK fires missile from submarine

By Agencies
DPRK fires missile from submarine
This April 24, 2016 file photo shows a picture released from Democratic People's Republic of Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) showing an underwater test-fire of a strategic submarine ballistic missile at an undisclosed location in DPRK on April 23, 2016. (Photo/AFP)

SEOUL, TOKYO — Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) on Wednesday fired a ballistic missile from a submarine into the sea in an apparent protest against the start of annual US-Republic of Korea military drills, Seoul's military said.

The Japanese government strongly condemned the missile firing, with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe blasting it as an unforgivable act.

"It is a grave threat to Japan's security and an unforgivable act to regional stability and peace," Abe told a press briefing.

A strong protest in this regard has been made with Pyongyang through certain diplomatic channels, he added.

The missile fired from a submarine off the eastern coastal town of Sinpo flew about 500 kilometers, the longest flight of a DPRK submarine-launched missile, Seoul's Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.

US Strategic Command said it had tracked the DPRK submarine launch of the presumed KN-11 missile over and into the Sea of Japan.

DPRK fired two other missiles from submarines earlier this year but they were believed to have exploded in midair after flying several or 30 kilometers, according to ROK defense officials.

DPRK fires missile from submarine

Army soldiers of Republic of Korea stand as women watch during an anti-terror drill as part of the Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise, at Yoido Subway Station in Seoul, ROK, Aug 23, 2016. ROK and the United States began annual military drills Monday despite Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) threat of nuclear strikes in response to the exercises that it calls an invasion rehearsal. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

DPRK’s acquiring the ability to launch missiles from submarines would be an alarming development because missiles fired from submerged vessels are harder to detect in advance. The US Strategic Command statement said the DPRK launch did not pose a threat to North America but that the US military "remains vigilant in the face of North Korean provocations."

DPRK's missile and nuclear programs are a source of regional security concerns. Outside experts say the DPRK doesn't yet have a reliable long-range nuclear missile capable of reaching the continental US but they acknowledge the DPRK has been making steady progress on its weapons programs and could one day acquire such a weapon.

Some civilian experts said they believe the DPRK already has the technology to put warheads on shorter-range missiles that can strike ROK and Japan.

Wednesday's launch comes two days after the US and ROK began their 12-day Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercises, prompting DPRK threats of retaliation.

The ROK military statement said it considers the DPRK missile launch as an "armed protest" against the military drills and a challenge to peace on the Korean Peninsula. It also noted that the launch violated UN Security Council resolutions that ban any ballistic missile activities by DPRK.

The launch also comes at a time of intensified animosities between the rival Koreas over the defection of a senior DPRK diplomat in London and a US plan to install a sophisticated missile defense system in ROK.

About 28,500 US troops are based in ROK to help deter potential aggression from DPRK, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War that ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.

DPRK usually responds to the regular ROK-US military drills with weapons tests and fiery warlike rhetoric.

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