North Korea launches a long-range missile ahead of talks between Japan and South Korea

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People in Seoul watch reports of a long-range missile launch Thursday morning

North Korea launched an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) hours before the leaders of South Korea and Japan meet for a historic summit.

Japanese and South Korean officials confirmed the long-range missile launch Thursday morning.

It flew about 1,000 km (620 miles) and landed in waters west of Japan.

This was the fourth missile launch from Pyongyang last week – although the other rounds were short-range.

The activity comes amid ongoing naval exercises between the United States and South Korea around the Korean peninsula – the largest between the two allies in five years. North Korea has repeatedly said it considers such exercises a provocation.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the missile was launched at 07:10 (22:10 GMT) from Pyongyang, on North Korea’s east coast.

The Japanese Ministry of Defense confirmed that it was an ICBM and said it flew at an altitude of more than 6,000 km for 70 minutes.

After Thursday’s launch, South Korean President Yoon Sok-yol ordered his country’s military to continue joint US exercises as planned.

He added that Pyongyang would pay the price for its “reckless provocations”.

North Korea last launched an intercontinental ballistic missile less than a month ago – a move that sparked an emergency meeting of the United Nations and condemnation from the G7 nations.

ICBMs are of particular concern because of their long range, including to the mainland United States.

Many hope that the meeting – hailed as a “milestone” in the rapprochement between South Korea and Japan – will result in closer security ties and military cooperation between the two countries in the face of North Korean aggression.

The two countries said they would hold National Security Council meetings after Thursday’s missile launch.

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