North Korea fires submarine-launched missile - South Korea

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N Korea 'Submarine Fires Missile'

SEOUL, April 23 (Reuters) - North Korea fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile on Saturday off its east coast, South Korea said, amid concerns that the isolated state might conduct a nuclear test or a missile launch ahead of a ruling party meeting in May.

The North fired the missile to the northeast from an area off its east coast at about 6:30 p.m. (0930 GMT), the South's office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

North Korea will hold a rare congress of its ruling Workers' Party in early May for the first time in 36 years where its leader Kim Jong Un is expected to proclaim the country was a strong military power and a nuclear state.

The missile flew for about 30 km (18 miles), a South Korean Defence Ministry official said by telephone, adding its military was trying to determine whether the launch may have been a failure for unspecified reasons.

Click through for photos of North Korea's nuclear facilities:

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North Korean nuclear facilities
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North Korea fires submarine-launched missile - South Korea
YONGBYON NUCLEAR FACILITY, NORTH KOREA - JULY 2, 2015: Figure 3. Transformer Yard at the ELWR. Date: July 2, 2015. Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center. Mandatory credit: Image © 2015 DigitalGlobe Inc./38 North.
YONGBYON NUCLEAR FACILITY, NORTH KOREA - JULY 2, 2015: Figure 4. Construction at the Uranium Enrichment Facility. Date: July 2, 2015. Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center. Mandatory credit: Image © 2015 DigitalGlobe Inc./38 North.
YONGBYON NUCLEAR FACILITY, NORTH KOREA - JULY 2, 2015: Figure 1. Vehicles at the 5 MWe Reactor. Date: July 2, 2015. Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center. Mandatory credit: Image © 2015 DigitalGlobe Inc./38 North.
YONGBYON NUCLEAR FACILITY, NORTH KOREA - APRIL 29, 2015: Figure 2. Probable CO2 truck seen at the 5 MWe Reactor in April. Date April 29, 2015. Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center. Mandatory credit: Image © 2015 DigitalGlobe Inc./38 North.
YONGBYON NUCLEAR FACILITY, NORTH KOREA - May 24, 2015: Figure 4. Continued construction at the uranium enrichment facility. Note: image rotated. Date: May 24, 2015. Published on 38 North. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
YONGBYON NUCLEAR FACILITY, NORTH KOREA - NOVEMBER 4, 2014: This is Figure 3 -- DigitalGlobe imagery shows new activity seen at the Radiochemical Laboratory. Note: image rotated -- published on 38 North. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
YONGBYON NUCLEAR FACILITY, NORTH KOREA - JANUARY 11, 2015: This is Figure 4B. ELWR activity in January 2015. Note: image rotated. Date: January 11, 2015 -- published on 38 North. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
YONGBYON NUCLEAR FACILITY, NORTH KOREA - May 24, 2015: Figure 3: 5 MWe Reactor on May 24vehicles present, no indications of steam or water discharge. Note: image rotated. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
YONGBYON NUCLEAR FACILITY, NORTH KOREA - May 24, 2015: Figure 2. Power line service to 5 MWe Reactor area. Note: image rotated. Date: May 24, 2015. Published on 38 North. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
YONGBYON NUCLEAR FACILITY, NORTH KOREA - OCTOBER 28, 2014: This is Figure 1 -- DigitalGlobe imagery of the 5 MWe Reactor appears to still be shutdown -- published on 38 North. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - MARCH 27th, 2015: Figure 6a. Construction material visible at the Main Support Area at the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site in North Korea. Date: March 27, 2015. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - MAY 16, 2015: Figure 6b. An old building has been re-roofed and a new building has been erected at the Main Support Area at the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site in North Korea. Date: May 16, 2015 (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
YONGBYON NUCLEAR FACILITY, NORTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 7, 2013: This is Figure 9. a time progression of the experimental light water reactor (ELWR) development at the Yongbyon Nuclear Facility in North Korea. Featured in “Start-Up of North Korean Experimental Light Water Reactor Could Begin by Mid-2013 If Fuel is Available,” published on 38 North. Figure 9: February 7, 2013 (reactor building complete, cleanup underway). (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
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South Korea's Yonhap news agency said the missile flew "for a few minutes," citing a government source.

The North first attempted a launch of the submarine-based missile last year and was seen to be in the early stages of developing such a weapons system, which could pose a new threat to its neighbors and the United States if it is perfected.

However, follow-up test launches were believed to have fallen short of the North's expectations as its state media footage appeared to have been edited to fake success, according experts who have seen the visuals.

South Korea's military has said it is on high alert over the possibility that the isolated North could conduct its fifth nuclear test "at any time" in defiance of U.N. sanctions after setting off what it said was a hydrogen device in January.

Satellite images show that North Korea may have resumed tunnel excavation at its main nuclear test site, similar to activity seen before the January test, a U.S. North Korea monitoring website reported on Wednesday.

South Korea and the United States, as well as experts, believe the North is working to develop a submarine-launched ballistic missile system and an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) putting the mainland United States within range.

North Korea is banned from nuclear tests and activities that use ballistic missile technology under U.N. sanctions dating back to 2006 and most recently adopted in March but it has pushed ahead with work to miniaturize a nuclear warhead and develop an ICBM.

A senior U.S. official said this week that North Korea should take a lesson from Iran which has agreed to roll back its nuclear program in an agreement with Western powers in return for lifting of major sanctions but the North has shown no sign of entering into such a pact. (Editing by Jack Kim and Alison Williams)

Take a look at daily life in North Korea:

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North Korea fires submarine-launched missile - South Korea
FILE - In this Sept. 1, 2014, photo, a clock is visible on top of a train station in Pyongyang, North Korea. North Korea said Friday, Aug. 7, 2015, that it will establish its own time zone next week by pulling back its current standard time by 30 minutes. Local time in North and South Korea and Japan is the same — nine hours ahead of GMT. It was set during Japan's rule over what was single Korea from 1910 to 1945. The establishment of "Pyongyang time" is meant to root out the legacy of the Japanese colonial period, the North's official Korean Central News Agency said. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E, File)
In this June 19, 2014 photo, a North Korean man pushes his bicycle to a village in North Korea's North Hamgyong province. The Associated Press was granted permission to embark on a weeklong road trip across North Korea to the country's spiritual summit Mount Paektu. The trip was on North Korea's terms. An AP reporter and photographer couldn't interview ordinary people or wander off course, and government "minders" accompanied them the entire way. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
In this June 15, 2014 photo, the remains of lunch sits on a restaurant table in the city of Wonsan, North Korea. The Associated Press was granted permission to embark on a weeklong road trip across North Korea to the country's spiritual summit Mount Paektu. The trip was on North Korea's terms. An AP reporter and photographer couldn't interview ordinary people or wander off course, and government "minders" accompanied them the entire way. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
In this June 20, 2014 photo, a North Korean man stands in front of a row of homes in the town of Kimchaek, in North Korea's North Hamgyong province. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
North Koreans gather together on the steps of Mansu Hill to lay flowers at the base of statues of the late leaders, Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, in Pyongyang, North Korea, Monday, Dec. 16, 2013, the eve of the second anniversary of the death of Kim Jong Il. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
In this June 21, 2014 photo, a group of young North Koreans enjoys a picnic on the beach in Wonsan, North Korea. The Associated Press was granted permission to embark on a weeklong road trip across North Korea to the country's spiritual summit Mount Paektu. The trip was on North Korea's terms. AP reporter and photographer couldn't interview ordinary people or wander off course, and government "minders" accompanied them the entire way. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
In this June 17, 2014 photo, a North Korean man sits by a cooking fire he built to roast potatoes and chicken in the town of Samjiyon, in North Korea's Ryanggang province. The Associated Press was granted permission to embark on a weeklong road trip across North Korea to the country's spiritual summit Mount Paektu. The trip was on North Korea's terms. An AP reporter and photographer couldn't interview ordinary people or wander off course, and government "minders" accompanied them the entire way. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
North Korean aerobics instructors practice a routine at a dance studio inside the newly-opened Kumrung Sports Exercise Center in Pyongyang, North Korea on Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013. Building new recreational and health facilities has been a cornerstone of leader Kim Jong Un's efforts to fulfill a promise made to raise living standards in North Korea. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
In this June 20, 2014 photo, North Korean people rest next to the railroad tracks in a town in North Korea's North Hamgyong province. The Associated Press was granted permission to embark on a weeklong road trip across North Korea to the country's spiritual summit Mount Paektu. The trip was on North Korea's terms. An AP reporter and photographer couldn't interview ordinary people or wander off course, and government "minders" accompanied them the entire way. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
In this June 16, 2014 photo, North Korean men share a picnic lunch and North Korean-brewed and bottled Taedonggang beer along the road in North Korea's North Hwanghae province. The Associated Press was granted permission to embark on a weeklong road trip across North Korea to the country's spiritual summit Mount Paektu. The trip was on North Korea's terms. An AP reporter and photographer couldn't interview ordinary people or wander off course, and government "minders" accompanied them the entire way. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
In this June 20, 2014 photo, young North Korean schoolchildren help to fix pot holes in a rural road in North Korea's North Hamgyong province. The Associated Press was granted permission to embark on a weeklong road trip across North Korea to the country's spiritual summit Mount Paektu. The trip was on North Korea's terms. An AP reporter and photographer couldn't interview ordinary people or wander off course, and government "minders" accompanied them the entire way. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
North Korean women in colorful traditional dresses are surrounded by flower blossoms known as "Kimilsungia" as they wait to guide guests at a flower exhibition in Pyongyang, North Korea Monday, April 14, 2014. The flowers, named after Kim Il Sung, are on display to celebrate the late leader's official birth date of April 15, 1912. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
In this June 14, 2014 photo, portraits of the late North Korean leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il are illuminated on a building side as the sun rises over Pyongyang. The Associated Press was granted permission to embark on a weeklong road trip across North Korea to the country's spiritual summit Mount Paektu. The trip was on North Korea's terms. An AP reporter and photographer couldn't interview ordinary people or wander off course, and government "minders" accompanied them the entire way. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
FILE - In this Sept. 1, 2014, photo, a clock hangs on the wall as North Koreans leave an underground train station in Pyongyang, North Korea. North Korea said Friday, Aug. 7, 2015, that it will establish its own time zone next week by pulling back its current standard time by 30 minutes. Local time in North and South Korea and Japan is the same — nine hours ahead of GMT. It was set during Japan's rule over what was single Korea from 1910 to 1945. The establishment of "Pyongyang time" is meant to root out the legacy of the Japanese colonial period, the North's official Korean Central News Agency said. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E, File)
North Korea's capital Pyongyang, viewed from a window of an Air Koryo flight arriving from Beijing, stands on the horizon on Thursday, May 8, 2014. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
In this Monday, June 16, 2014 photo, a North Korean man driving an ox cart protects himself in a rainstorm south of Hyesan, North Korea in Ryanggang province. For more than four decades, farming in North was characterized by heavy use of mechanization and technological innovations, swiftly followed by chronic fuel and equipment shortages and long-term damage caused by stopgap policies. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
North Korean children climb steps near Mansu Hill in Pyongyang on their way to lay flowers at the feet of bronze statues of the late North Korean leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il on Saturday, April 12, 2014. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
In this June 21, 2014 photo, a man works on his car as others sit next to the sea Wonsan, North Korea. The Associated Press was granted permission to embark on a weeklong road trip across North Korea to the country's spiritual summit Mount Paektu. The trip was on North Korea's terms. An AP reporter and photographer couldn't interview ordinary people or wander off course, and government "minders" accompanied them the entire way. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
In this June 16, 2014 photo, statues of animals playing musical instruments stand along the roadside south of Samsu, North Korea in Ryanggang province. The Associated Press was granted permission to embark on a weeklong road trip across North Korea to the country's spiritual summit Mount Paektu. The trip was on North Korea's terms. An AP reporter and photographer couldn't interview ordinary people or wander off course, and government "minders" accompanied them the entire way. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
In this June 20, 2014 photo, exhaust fumes, like fog, spills out of the long Hamgwan Tunnel near Hamhung in North Korea's South Hamgyong province. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
10ThingstoSeeSports - North Korean spectators watch from the stands of Kim Il Sung Stadium as runners line up at the start of the Mangyongdae Prize International Marathon in Pyongyang, North Korea on Sunday, April 13, 2014. The annual race, which includes a full marathon, a half marathon, and a 10-kilometer run, was open to foreign tourists for the first time this year. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder, File)
A North Korean man helps a woman fire a bow and arrow at a firing range at the Meari Shooting Gallery in Pyongyang on Wednesday, April 16, 2014. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
In this June 17, 2014 photo, a North Korean man takes shelter in the rain next to long propaganda billboards in the town of Samjiyon in North Korea's Ryanggang province. The Associated Press was granted permission to embark on a weeklong road trip across North Korea to the country's spiritual summit Mount Paektu. The trip was on North Korea's terms. An AP reporter and photographer couldn't interview ordinary people or wander off course, and government "minders" accompanied them the entire way. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
In this June 21, 2014 photo, a woman walks along an open road southeast of Pyongyang in North Korea's North Hwanghae province. The Associated Press was granted permission to embark on a weeklong road trip across North Korea to the country's spiritual summit Mount Paektu. The trip was on North Korea's terms. An AP reporter and photographer couldn't interview ordinary people or wander off course, and government "minders" accompanied them the entire way. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
In this June 19, 2014 photo, a hotel employee walks in the lobby of a hotel that accommodates foreign visitors in Chongjin, North Korea. The Associated Press was granted permission to embark on a weeklong road trip across North Korea to the country's spiritual summit Mount Paektu. The trip was on North Korea's terms. An AP reporter and photographer couldn't interview ordinary people or wander off course, and government "minders" accompanied them the entire way. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
In June 18, 2014 photo, a boulder lies on a path near the peak of Mount Paektu in North Korea's Ryanggang province. North Koreans venerate Mount Paektu for its natural beauty, but more importantly because it is considered the home of the North Korean revolution. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
In this June 16, 2014 photo, farmers walk in a rainstorm with their cattle near the town of Hyesan, North Korea in Ryanggang province. The Associated Press was granted permission to embark on a weeklong road trip across North Korea to the country's spiritual summit Mount Paektu. The trip was on North Korea's terms. An AP reporter and photographer couldn't interview ordinary people or wander off course, and government "minders" accompanied them the entire way. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
In this June 21, 2014 photo, a row of bicycles are parked next to the sea Wonsan, North Korea. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
In this Monday, June 16, 2014 photo, North Korean men rest along the roadside north of Samsu, North Korea in Ryanggang province. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
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