North Korea has launched at least two projectiles suspected by Japan to be ballistic missiles, officials in Seoul, Tokyo and Washington say.
It was the first such test reported since US President Joe Biden took office in January.
North Korea’s ballistic missiles are banned under United Nations Security Council Resolutions, and if the launch is confirmed it would represent a new challenge to Mr Biden’s efforts to engage with Pyongyang, which have so far been rebuffed.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff reported at least two “unidentified projectiles” were fired on Thursday into the sea from North Korea’s South Hamgyong Province on the east coast.
South Korean and US intelligence agencies were analysing the data of the launch for additional information, the JCS said in a statement.
South Korea’s presidential Blue House will convene an emergency meeting of the national security council to discuss the launches.
US officials confirmed North Korea carried out a new projectile launch, without offering details on the number or kind of projectile detected.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said the projectiles were two ballistic missiles. They fell outside the Japanese exclusive economic zone.
Mr Suga said he would “thoroughly discuss” North Korea issues including the launches with Mr Biden during his visit in April.
Earlier the Japanese coast guard warned ships against coming close to any fallen objects and instead asked them to provide information to the coast guard.
Over the weekend North Korea fired two short-range cruise missiles, US and South Korean officials said. Mr Biden played down the those tests as “business as usual” and officials in Washington said they were still open to dialogue with Pyongyang.
Ballistic missile tests would be a “step up” from the weekend test, and allow North Korea to improve its technology, send a proportionate response to US-South Korea military drills, and signal to the US that it is improving its arsenal, said Vipin Narang, a nuclear affairs expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US.
The test launches should not torpedo diplomatic efforts, but they are a reminder of the cost of the failure to secure a deal with Pyongyang, he said.
“Every day that passes without a deal that tries to reduce the risks posed by North Korea’s nuclear and missile arsenal is a day that it gets bigger and badder,” Associate Professor Narang said.
Mr Biden’s diplomatic overtures to North Korea have gone unanswered. Pyongyang has said it will not engage until Washington drops hostile policies, including carrying out military drills with South Korea.
North Korea has been angered by recent joint US-South Korean exercises even though they were scaled back to try to get nuclear talks restarted.
The administration’s North Korea policy review is in its “final stages” and the US would host the national security advisers of allies Japan and South Korea next week to discuss that, senior officials said on Wednesday.
North Korea has continued to develop its nuclear and missile programs throughout 2020 in violation of UN sanctions dating back to 2006. It helps to fund them with about $US300 million ($A394 million) stolen through cyber hacks, according to independent UN sanctions monitors.