SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea fired a ballistic missile toward the sea off its east coast on Wednesday, a day after President Park Geun-hye of South Korea said her government remained firm in its plan to deploy an advanced American missile defense system despite protests at home and from China.
The North Korean missile, a midrange Rodong missile, was fired from Eunyul, near the country’s southwestern tip, at 7:50 a.m. It flew 620 miles before plunging into waters off the east coast, the South Korean military said in a statement.
“By launching a ballistic missile that can be tipped with a nuclear warhead in the future, North Korea directly and blatantly demonstrated its provocative ambition to target seaports and airfields across South Korea and even its neighboring countries,” the military’s statement said.
The United States Strategic Command, which monitors North Korean missile tests, said the North fired two missiles on Wednesday, one of them exploding immediately after launch.
The launch was the North’s first ballistic missile test since it tested a Scud-type short-range missile and two midrange Rodong ballistic missiles on July 19. United Nations Security Council resolutions have barred North Korea from developing ballistic missiles.
North Korea was thought to have launched those missiles last month to demonstrate a capability to strike South Korea despite the South’s plan to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense battery, known as Thaad, in the town of Seongju by the end of next year, analysts said.
South Korea and the United States announced plans last month to deploy the advanced missile defense system in Seongju, saying that it would defend South Korea as well as American troops in the country.
But people in Seongju and many opposition lawmakers have protested the decision. Villagers there said they feared that the powerful radar from the missile defense system might harm their health, a concern the government called groundless.
Analysts and politicians in South Korea also remained divided over whether the new system, which is designed to intercept enemy missiles at high altitude, could protect the South from the North’s short-range missiles.
In a meeting with her cabinet on Tuesday, Ms. Park warned that “a host of malicious rumors” about the antimissile system “were shaking the foundation of national security.’’
On Wednesday, Park Jie-won, an opposition leader, accused Ms. Park of having what he called the “totalitarian” habit of attacking dissident views as malicious rumors.
Many South Koreans also fear that deploying the new system might undermine their country’s relations with China.
Shares of South Korean entertainment companies that export TV dramas, movies and music to China declined on Tuesday after some media outlets in Hong Kong and China speculated that Beijing’s broadcasting regulators might put restrictions on South Korean content in retaliation for deployment of the antimissile system.
China, Russia and North Korea have all criticized the deployment, saying it represented a threat to their security, while the United States, Japan and South Korea called for a better protection from North Korean threats.
In a report issuedon Tuesday, Japan called North Korea’s nuclear and missile development a “grave and imminent threat.” The report said North Korea might have achieved the capability of miniaturizing atomic weapons for warheads, as well as having acquired a ballistic missile capable of reaching as far as 6,200 miles, enough to reach parts of the continental United States.
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