North Korea has fired a number of missiles, including what is thought to have been an intercontinental ballistic missile that prompted an evacuation warning for parts of Japan.
One of the missiles reached an altitude of 1,200 miles and travelled about 460 miles, Japan’s defence minister Yasukazu Hamada said.
The flight pattern – a “lofted trajectory” – sees a missile fired high into space to avoid flying over neighbouring countries.
But the Japanese military lost track of the suspected ICBM over the water between the Korean Peninsula and Japan, with Mr Hamada correcting an earlier report that it had flown over Japan.
South Korea said it was likely to have failed mid-flight.
Officials in Seoul said the first missile was launched from near the North Korean capital Pyongyang, with a second and third about an hour later from Kaechon, north of Pyongyang.
After the first launch, the office of Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida had broadcast alerts on TV, radio, mobile phones and loudspeakers via the J-Alert Emergency Broadcasting System.
These alerts went to residents in the prefectures of Miyagi, Yamagata and Niigata, telling them to get inside strong buildings or to head underground.
Bullet train services in the three regions were stopped but there were no reports of damage or injuries.
Prime Minister Kishida said: “North Korea’s repeated missile launches are an outrage and absolutely cannot be forgiven.”
South Korea’s Vice Foreign Minister Cho Hyun-dong and US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman described the launches as “deplorable, immoral” during a phone call on Thursday, Seoul’s foreign ministry said.
It comes a day after North Korea fired at least 23 missiles, including one that landed just 40 miles off the coast of South Korea, prompting South Korea to issue its own air raid warnings and launch its own missiles.
North Korea has also been calling for the US and South Korea to stop large military exercises, which it describes as “military rashness and provocation (which) can be no longer tolerated”.
Nuclear negotiations between the US and North Korea have been stalled since early 2019.