North Korea fires short-range missile along its coast

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects a flight drill of fighter pilots from the Korean People's Army's (KPA) Air and Anti-Air Force, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on February 21, 2016. REUTERS/KCNA

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea test-fired a short-range missile on its east coast on Tuesday, South Korea’s military said, amid heightened tension over the isolated country’s nuclear and rocket programs.

The missile was fired from near the North Korean coastal town of Wonsan at 5:40 p.m. (0840 GMT) and flew northeast for about 200 km (124 miles) and then “made contact” with the mainland, South Korea’s military said in a statement.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has presided over a string of short-range missile launches in recent weeks in what the communist-ruled nation’s state media has characterized as a response to U.N. sanctions imposed for its fourth nuclear test in January.

The U.S. State Department said it was aware of the report of the missile firing.

“North Korea should refrain from actions and rhetoric that raise tensions in the region and comply with its international obligations and commitments,” said Katina Adams, a spokeswoman in the State Department’s East Asian and Pacific Affairs bureau.

U.S. President Barack Obama will meet South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday to discuss North Korea’s nuclear program, the White House said on Monday.

The meeting on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington will take place the same day Obama talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Reporting by Rebecca Jang and Ju-min Park; Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom; Wrting by James Pearson; Editing by Robert Birsel and Paul Simao