North Korea and South Korea have test fired ballistic missiles, the latest volley in an arms race in which both countries have developed increasingly sophisticated weapons while efforts prove fruitless to get talks going on defusing tensions.
South Korea tested a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), becoming the first country without nuclear weapons to develop such a system.
South Korean President Moon was attending that test firing when word came of the North Korean launches, its first ballistic missile tests since March.
North Korea fired a pair of ballistic missiles that landed in the sea off its east coast, according South Korean and Japanese officials, just days after it tested a cruise missile that analysts said could have nuclear capabilities.
Japan's defence ministry said the missiles landed inside Japan's exclusive economic zone (EEZ), contradicting earlier comments that they fell outside its waters.
North Korea has been steadily developing its weapons systems amid a stand-off over talks aimed at dismantling its nuclear and ballistic missile arsenals in return for US sanctions relief.
The negotiations, initiated between former US president Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in 2018, have stalled since 2019.
South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said North Korea fired two unidentified missiles from its central inland region just after 12.30pm that flew 800km to a maximum altitude of 60km.
The United States condemned North Korea's launch, saying it violated UN Security Council resolutions and posed a threat to the country's neighbours, a State Department spokesperson said, without mentioning South Korea's tests.
United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the UN is concerned about the North Korean launches.
Diplomats said France and Estonia plan to raise the North Korean launches at a closed-door UN Security Council meeting on Wednesday.
The US military's Indo-Pacific Command said the North Korean launches did not pose an immediate threat to US personnel, territory or allies but highlighted the destabilising impact of its illicit weapons program.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga called them "outrageous" and a threat to peace and security in the region.
The latest launches came as the foreign ministers of South Korea and China held talks in Seoul amid concern over North Korea's tests and the stalled denuclearisation negotiations.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, when asked about the cruise missile tests, said all parties should work to promote peace and stability on the Korean peninsula.
"Not only North Korea but other countries are carrying out military activity," he told reporters.
In a meeting with Wang on Wednesday, Moon asked for China's support to restart dialogue, saying North Korea has not been responding to South Korean and US offers for talks or engagement such as humanitarian aid, Moon's spokesperson said.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said China hopes "relevant parties" will exercise restraint."
Australian Associated Press