On their sixth try in June, a missile was successfully launched and traveled 250 miles before landing harmlessly in the Sea of Japan, causing global condemnation and concerns North Korea was on the verge of unveiling a missile system that could threaten the region.
The Hwasong-10 is the North's only tested missile with a range long enough to reach U.S. military bases in Guam in the Pacific, and in South Korea and Japan.
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"We strongly condemn this and North Korea's other recent missile tests, which violate UN Security Council Resolutions explicitly prohibiting North Korea's launches using ballistic missile technology", said Gary Ross, a spokesperson for the Pentagon.
"We remain dedicated to the security of this nation. and this region", Rear Adm. Brad Cooper, the commander of Naval Forces Korea, said in remarks after the ship docked.
This undated picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on June 23, 2016 shows a test launch of the surface-to-surface medium long-range strategic ballistic missile Hwasong-10 at an undisclosed location in North Korea. The medium-range Musudan missile is known to have a range of 3,000-4,000 km that can reach the USA military base in Guam.
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On June 22, Pyongyang launched a Musudan medium-range missile, flying some 400 km after reaching as high as 1,413.6 km.
The reported incident coincides with the last day of the joint military drills between South Korea and the United States. Observers say the location of Saturday's launch may reflect the North's wish to avoid an unintended clash with the USA military.
The weekend launch puts the situation in a "new phase", Japan's Defense Minister Tomomi Inada said in a Fuji television program on Sunday, adding Tokyo is seeking a new response to the threat.
Lee said the country would not hesitate to carrying out "a sixth, seventh, or an eighth" nuclear test. The site's proximity to North Korean ally China may have been chosen to deter any attack by the U.S.
South Korea has been negotiating with the U.S. to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system (THAAD) to protect itself from its northern neighbor, with whom it remains technically at war.
The test-launch, the JCS said, failed as the missile exploded soon after its liftoff.