A test-fire of strategic submarine-launched ballistic missile in an undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang August 25, 2016. Photo: Reuters/KCNA

North Korea fired what is believed to be an intermediate-range missile early on Thursday but it failed immediately after launch – the second such failure in six days – South Korea’s military said.

It brought an immediate condemnation from Japan, whose top government spokesman said the country would lodge a stern protest against Pyongyang for the action.

Earlier, US Strategic Command said a failed attempt by North Korea to launch a missile was detected at 2200 GMT on Wednesday from the northwestern city of Kusong, adding it was presumed to be a Musudan intermediate-range ballistic missile.

“The Japanese government is protesting to North Korea through our embassy in Beijing, while condemning it strongly,” said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga.

North Korea, which conducted its fifth nuclear blast on September 9, is already under heavy international sanctions over its missile and nuclear tests.

The latest incident follows a similar one on October 15 when North Korea tested a medium-range Musudan missile which exploded soon after lift-off.

That incident prompted the UN Security Council on October 17 to strongly condemned North Korea, threatening further measures against Pyongyang.

In a unanimous statement backed by China, Pyongyang’s ally, the council “strongly condemned the most recent failed ballistic missile launch,” branding it a “grave violation” of North Korea’s international obligations.

The United States and China are drafting a new sanctions resolution that the Security Council agreed last month to pursue after Pyongyang carried out its fifth and most powerful nuclear test to date.

North Korea has been hit by five sets of UN sanctions since it first tested a nuclear device in 2006.

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