Kim Jong Un North Korea 2016
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits the Paektusan Hero Youth Power Station No. 3 in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) KCNA/via REUTERS

The North Korean regime has fired a ballistic missile from aboard a submarine off the country's east coast close to the town of Sinpo, according to observers in neighbouring South Korea. There are fears Pyongyang could be preparing to test another nuclear device as part of the communist regime's ruling party congress which takes place in May – the first such gathering for 36 years.

South Korea's Joint Chief of Staff (JCS) told reporters the test took place at 6:30pm local time (10.30am BST) on Saturday, 23 April. "We are keeping an eye on North Korea's movements, and maintaining readiness," said the FCS source.

According to the South Korean Yonhap News Agency the missile flew "for a few minutes" before disappearing from view. It is not yet known where the missile landed. The test is the latest conducted by Pyongyang in what it says is a response to aggressive and provocative military drills being conducted by South Korea and the US in the region.

Nuclear test coming

Preparations for what would be North Korea's fifth nuclear test are said to be complete at the country's Punggye-ri nuclear site. Satellite imagery suggest that personnel and much of the equipment usually all around the site, including vehicles, are gone meaning the test could take place this weekend (23-24 April). Roads to and from the site have been blocked by the military.

The US are extremely concerned about the nuclear threat from the rogue nation, led its bizarre figurehead Kim Jong-Un. North Korea has regularly threatened the West with nuclear destruction, in bizarre propaganda videos.

In January, the pariah state announced the development of a hydrogen bomb and in March unveiled what it said was a miniaturised nuclear warhead small enough to be fitted to conventional missiles. It is also believed to be attempting to develop long-range interballistic missiles capable of reaching the US.

The US is taking the claims extremely seriously. There are fears North Korea may attempt to use the missiles itself or sell them to terrorist groups such as Islamic State.