PYONGYANG – North Korea on Wednesday fired at least three ballistic missiles into the sea off its east coast near Japanese-controlled waters, US and Japanese officials confirmed.

According to media reports, the main body of one missile landed in Japan’s economic exclusion zone. The missile was launched at around 7:50 am Seoul time from North Korea’s Hwanghae province.

Reacting to the missile launch, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said it was a “grave threat” to Japan and that Tokyo “strongly protested” the launch. He termed the missile launch a clear defiance of United Nations Security Council resolutions.

The new missile launch came nearly a week after South Korea and the United States chose a site in the South to deploy the anti-missile system to counter threats from North Korea. The move had prompted Pyongyang to threaten what it called a “physical response”.

Following the latest development, regional tensions were already high after a series of missile launches by North Korea and the decision by the United States to place a sophisticated anti-missile system in South Korea are expected to further escalate.