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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un watches a long range rocket launched into the air in this still image taken from KRT footage and released by Yonhap on February 7, 2016. REUTERS/Yonhap/File Photo

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By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described North Korea's latest ballistic missile launches as a "brazen and irresponsible act" ahead of a U.N. Security Council meeting on the issue on Wednesday.

North Korea, or the DPRK, launched what appeared to be an intermediate-range missile on Wednesday to a high altitude in the direction of Japan before it plunged into the sea about two hours after a similar test failed.

"The continued pursuit by the DPRK of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles will only undermine its security and fail to improve the lives of its citizens," Ban's spokesman, Farhan Haq, said.

Haq added that the launch, "in defiance of the unanimous will of the international community, is a brazen and irresponsible act," Haq added.

French U.N. Ambassador Francois Delattre, president of the 15-member council for June, said the missile launches were an "unacceptable violation" of a U.N. ban. A council meeting later on Wednesday was requested by the United States and Japan.

"We want a quick and firm reaction of the Security Council on this," said Delattre. "We hope that ... we'll have a press statement on this."

The tests were the latest in a string of demonstrations of military might that began in January with North Korea's fourth nuclear test and included the launch of a long-range rocket in February.

North Korea has been under U.N. sanctions since 2006. In March, the Security Council imposed harsh new sanctions on the country.

(Editing by Bernadette Baum; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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