North Korea confirms underwater-launched missile, calls it ‘new phase’ for limiting outside threats

North Korea confirmed Thursday that its recent ballistic missile launch was successfully fired from below water, calling the test a “new phase” for containing outside threats.

The Hermit Kingdom launched the Pukguksong-3 missile Wednesday, its first underwater-launched ballistic missile test in three years, just days before stalled nuclear talks with Washington were scheduled to resume this weekend.

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The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the missile test in the waters off its east coast was successful and “ushered in a new phase in containing the outside forces' threat to (North Korea) and further bolstering its military muscle for self-defense.”

An image provided by a North Korean news agency shows an underwater-launched ballistic missile. Officials said the missile traveled twice as high as the orbit of the international space station. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

An image provided by a North Korean news agency shows an underwater-launched ballistic missile. Officials said the missile traveled twice as high as the orbit of the international space station. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

The missile flew about 280 miles and reached a maximum altitude of 565 miles, higher than any other short-range weapons North Korea test-fired in recent months, said South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo. The missile traveled twice as high as the orbit of the international space station before coming down in the Sea of Japan.

North Korea released photos of the missile rising from the sea in a cloud of flames and smoke. A launch platform could not be identified from the photos.

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The KCNA didn’t elaborate on whether the missile was fired from a submarine, an escalation that had earlier concerned officials around the world.

While the North Korean news agency didn't elaborate on how the missile was launched, U.S. officials have said it was not fired from a submarine as was initially reported. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

While the North Korean news agency didn't elaborate on how the missile was launched, U.S. officials have said it was not fired from a submarine as was initially reported. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

However, U.S. officials told Fox News Wednesday that the missile was not fired from a submarine, as initially reported, suggesting it had been fired from a barge or a type of underwater platform.

The nation does not have operational submarines that can carry ballistic missiles in its small fleet.

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North Korea has been trying to develop the ability to fire ballistic missiles from submarines, which are harder to detect in advance. However, testing appeared to have been tabled amid talks with Washington.

Nuclear talks have been stalled since February, when President Trump and Kim Jong Un walked away from their second summit without a deal.

Fox News' Lucas Tomlinson and Morgan Phillips and The Associated Press contributed to this report.