Foreign Minister Murray McCully has "condemned in the strongest terms" North Korea's launching of multiple missiles.

McCully said the action was "highly provocative and deeply detrimental to regional and global security".

"Today's launches follow two North Korean nuclear tests and more than 20 missile tests since last year," he said.

"It is deeply frustrating that North Korea continues to show such disregard for UN Security Council resolutions, which prohibit all such missile launches.

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"New Zealand strongly urges North Korea to cease such tests and abide by its international obligations."

North Korea fired "several" banned ballistic missiles that flew about 1000km into waters off its east coast, South Korea's military says, in an apparent reaction to huge military drills by Washington and Seoul that Pyongyang insists are an invasion rehearsal.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the reclusive country fired four ballistic missiles, three of which fell into Japan's exclusive economic zone.