South Korea says it has successfully test-fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) for the first time, becoming the seventh country in the world with the advanced technology.
The presidential Blue House announced on Wednesday that a missile was fired underwater from the submerged 3,700-ton submarine Ahn Chang-ho and flew the planned distance before hitting its target.
President Moon Jae-in supervised the missile test.
Possessing an SLBM was "very meaningful in terms of securing deterrence against omnidirectional threats,” said the Blue House.
"It is expected to play a major role in self-reliant national defense and the establishment of peace on the Korean Peninsula going forward," it added.
South Korea, which has been advancing its military power including its missile capabilities, has now become the world's seventh country to have developed SLBM technology.
The other SLBM nations are also nuclear powers, but South Korea does not have nuclear weapons.
Earlier this month, the South's Yonhap news agency reported that the agency for Defense Development had carried out underwater ejection tests of the submarine-launched ballistic missile from a new locally-developed 3,000-ton class submarine in August.
According to the report, the SLBM was believed to be a variant of the country's Hyunmoo-2B ballistic missile, with a range of around 500 kilometers.
The South's Defense Ministry refused to confirm the report due to security reasons at the time.
The development came after Moon and US President Joe Biden agreed in May to end a 40-year bilateral agreement that limited the range and payload of South Korean missiles.
Pyongyang said back then that the ending of those restrictions on the South is a "deliberate and hostile act" by Washington and vowed to "counter the US on the principle of strength for strength."
Seoul’s test-launch came only hours after North Korea fired two ballistic missiles off its east coast on Wednesday.
South and North Korea cite one another's military developments as the reason for boosting their capabilities.
The North has unveiled a series of new SLBMs in recent years. It is also working to build a new submarine — believed to be a 3,000-ton one — designed to carry the missiles.
North Korea tested its first SLMB in 2016 and the second one four months later. In October 2019, Pyongyang claimed to have successfully tested a new-type SLBM.
In January, the North’s leader Kim Jong-un told a Congress session that Pyongyang had completed plans for a nuclear-powered submarine.
Facing harsh sanctions by the United Nations and the United States over its nuclear and missile programs, the North has held three successive rounds of inconclusive negotiations with the US under the former president Donald Trump's administration. The sides were ultimately unable to reach an agreement.
Pyongyang is strongly opposed to routine military exercises jointly held by the US and the South, seeing them as a rehearsal for a possible future war.