01 North Korea missile launch
North Korea missile launch draws condemnation
01:09 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Four ballistic missiles were launched some 1,000 kilometers into the ocean

South Korea and the US are currently holding joint military exercises

NEW: US says prepared to use full range of capabilities against threat

CNN  — 

North Korea fired four ballistic missiles early Monday morning in what Japan’s leader described as “an extremely dangerous action.”

A fifth missile failed to launch, a US official told CNN.

Military authorities in South Korea, Japan and the United States all confirmed the launch of four projectiles, which traveled almost 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) towards the Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea. One US official said they were intermediate-range missiles.

Three landed inside Japan’s exclusive economic zone, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, which extends 200 nautical miles from its coastline, according to international maritime law.

The launch underscored the rapid evolution of North Korea’s weapons program, which experts say has begun moving at a faster rate to develop and deploy missiles.

“They did a launch a month ago, they’re now launching (more) in 30 days. That’s a third of the time they used to need,” said Carl Schuster, a professor at Hawaii Pacific University.

Jeffrey Lewis, director of the US-based East Asia Nonproliferation Program, told CNN the North Koreans’ recent behavior was the sort “you see from a state that is planning to deploy nuclear weapons to its military units.”

Washington watching

Later on Monday, two US officials told CNN that US intelligence is closely monitoring the underground nuclear test site via satellite amid signs the regime could be preparing for another underground test.

While an underground test is impossible to predict, officials say some signs of activity at the site are similar to those that occurred just before the last test.

A US official also said that Washington is continuing to see activity including missile engine tests at another North Korean launch site, that signal potential additional launches – which the US widely expects.

The official said the launch did not involve one of North Korea’s more advanced missiles in development such as the Musudan missile.

Escalation

Speaking to the Japanese Parliament, Abe said Monday the launch was a clear violation of UN Security Council resolutions.

Experts said the move was almost certa