North Korea Launches Missile Ahead Of Planned US-South Korea Nuclear Drills

(Photo by ANTHONY WALLACE / AFP) (Photo by ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP via Getty Images)

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North Korea fired a long-range missile Saturday as the United States and South Korea move forward with annual nuclear drills designed to counter the growing threat posed by the communist country, officials say.

Japanese and South Korean military officials reported the launch, revealing that the missile reached a maximum altitude of 5,700 kilometers and traveled a distance of 900 kilometers before landing within Japan’s exclusive economic zone, approximately 125 miles west of Japan’s Oshima Island, The Associated Press reported.

The missile launch, the second of the year, comes one day after North Korea threatened action against the United States and South Korea in the wake of an announcement that the two countries would be undergoing a series of planned military exercises, the outlet stated. (RELATED: US Is Racing To Achieve Atomic Supremacy Over Its Key Foes As ‘Second Nuclear Age’ Begins, Experts Say)

In a “unprecedentedly persistent, strong” rebuke following the announcement, North Korea accused the United States Friday of escalating tension between the two rival nations, Reuters reported.

“If it is the U.S. option to show its muscle and counter everything with muscle, the same is true of the [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] option,” the North Korean ministry said in a statement the outlet reported. ‘In case the U.S. and South Korea carry into practice their already-announced plan for military drills which the DPRK … regards as preparations for an aggression war, they will face unprecedentedly persistent and strong counteractions,” the statement continued.

The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command assured that the missile launch did not present “an immediate threat to U.S. personnel, or territory, or to our allies,” but will continue to monitor the situation, calling on North Korea to “refrain from any further unlawful and destabilizing acts,” The AP reported.