• North Korea fired a ballistic missile off Japanese waters following South Korea's plan to deploy American anti-missile system.

North Korea fired a ballistic missile off Japanese waters following South Korea's plan to deploy American anti-missile system. (Photo : Getty Images/Chung Sung-Jun)

North Korea has launched a ballistic missile near Japanese-controlled waters on Wednesday, a day after South Korea said it is firm in its decision to deploy a sophisticated missile defense system with the United States.

According to Reuters, the missile's body landed in Japan's economic exclusion zone, where the country claims exclusive rights to drilling, fishing, and other economic activities, and has further heightened tensions in the region.  The report cited Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as describing North Korea's move a "grave threat" to Japan and stating that Tokyo is "strongly protesting" it.

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The news agency wrote that the move was the latest in North Korea's series of launches to show its defiance of sanctions by the United Nations Security Council that barred the North from developing ballistic missiles.  The North came under these U.N. Security Council resolutions in March following its fourth nuclear test in January and its launch of a long-range rocket in February.

The report also recalled that North Korea had earlier warned of a "physical attack" after South Korea and the U.S. arrived at an agreement last month to deploy an advanced Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-missile system in the South.  Under the agreement, the defense system, called "THAAD," will be deployed in Seongju by the end of next year.

The North Korean missile, a mid-range Rodong missile, was fired from Eunyul and landed 155 miles off northern Japan.  According to The New York Times, this was the closest a North Korean missile had come to Japan since 1998, when Pyongyang fired one over it.

The NY Times also cited the South Korean military as stating that the North's "provocative" launch sends a message that Pyongyang can launch a ballistic missile in the future that is tipped with a nuclear warhead.  South Korea referred to the launch as North Korea's way of showing its ambition to broadly and directly attack neighboring countries and target South Korean airfields and seaports.

The report further wrote that Wednesday's missile launch was the North's first ballistic missile test since its July test of a Scud-type short-range missile and two midrange Rodong ballistic missiles.  These missiles flew from 310 to 370 miles, not far enough to reach Japan's exclusive economic zone.

Analysts have weighed in and said that North Korea launched those missiles in July to demonstrate its capability to strike South Korea despite the latter's plan to deploy the THAAD.

See the report on North Korea's recent missile launch off Japanese waters in this video below: