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North Korea Launches Ballistic Missile in First Test Since September

People watch as North Korea's KRT television shows a photo of North Korea's test-launched first ICBM released by Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) at the Seoul Railway Station on July 4, 2017, (Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
People watch as North Korea's KRT television shows a photo of North Korea's test-launched first ICBM released by Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) at the Seoul Railway Station on July 4, 2017, (Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

North Korea has launched an unidentified ballistic missile after a two-month pause, according to initial reports from South Korean media.

A Defense Department official confirmed the Pentagon detected and tracked what was believed to be a single intercontinental ballistic missile that launched from North Korea at at 1:17 p.m. eastern standard time.

"We are in the process of assessing the situation," Pentagon spokesman Army Col Rob Manning told reporters at the Pentagon on Tuesday.

In an email a short time later, Manning said the missile was launched from Sain Ni in North Korea and traveled a lateral distance of about 1,000 kilometers before splashing down in the Sea of Japan, within Japan's Economic Exclusion Zone (EEZ).

"We are working with our interagency partners on a more detailed assessment of the launch," he said in the statement.

Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told reporters in Tokyo that his government confirmed North Korea fired one missile on a lofted trajectory that may have reached an altitude of more than 4,000 kilometers.

The height and flight time of roughly 50 minutes could mark the highest and longest duration flight yet of any North Korean ballistic missile test.

The launch comes more than a week after U.S. President Donald Trump redesignated North Korea as a terrorist state.

North Korea last launched a ballistic missile on Sept. 15 from Sunan airfield, just north of its capital Pyongyang.

The regime of Kim Jong-un has repeatedly tested nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles this year despite condemnations from the international community and economic sanctions from the U.S. Security Council.

"The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) determined the missile launch from North Korea did not pose a threat to North America, our territories or our allies," Manning said.

"Our commitment to the defense of our allies, including the Republic of Korea and Japan, in the face of these threats, remains ironclad," he said. "We remain prepared to defend ourselves and our allies from any attack or provocation."

Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon, Marine Corps Sergeant Maj Anthony Spadaro, the command senior enlisted leader for U.S. Pacific Command, said diplomacy is still the way forward to persuade North Korea to stand down its ICBM and nuclear achievements.

"We [want] to seek the peaceful denuclearization of that Peninsula, and that's our U.S. stance," Spadaro said. "That's why we're hoping for diplomatic solutions at this point."

Even following Tuesday's test, Spadaro said the U.S. is continuing "diplomatic processes."

"I think for that diplomatic process, we look at the calculus behind that. There [are] achieved effects right now," Spadaro said but did not disclose what postive outcomes have come from supposed diplomatic efforts.

"We're also demonstrating to our allies and our partners that we're all into this. And I think they want a peaceful denuclearization of the Peninsula," he said.  

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.