North Korea fires long-range missile into sea

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STORY: North Korea launched a long-range ballistic missile into the sea off Japan's west coast on Saturday -- after warning of a strong response to upcoming military drills by South Korea and the United States.

Japanese authorities said the missile plunged into waters inside Japan's exclusive economic zone more than an hour after it was launched, suggesting the weapon was one of Pyongyang's largest missiles.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the missile appeared to have been ICBM-class, referring to an intercontinental ballistic missile.

He told a briefing Japan strongly condemned the launch, calling it a threat to the international community.

Japan said the missile appeared to have a range of more than 8,700 miles - or 14,000km - sufficient to reach the U.S. mainland.

North Korea's missile firing came after Pyongyang threatened on Friday a quote 'persistent, strong' response as South Korea and the United States gear up for annual military exercises -- part of efforts to fend off the North's growing nuclear and missile threats.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, standing alongside his South Korean and Japanese counterparts on Saturday in Germany, called the launch a quote "provocative act."