SEOUL - North Korea test-fired a short-range missile or rocket near its east coast Tuesday, South Korea's military said, the latest in a series of launches amid rising tension on the divided peninsula.

The North fired the "short-range projectile" near the eastern city of Wonsan around 5:40 pm (0840 GMT) which flew about 200 kilometres (124 miles) to the country's northeast, Seoul's Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.

"We are closely monitoring the situation and standing ready for any situations," the statement said.

The projectile appears to have fallen on land unlike previous tests when missiles were fired into the sea, Seoul's defence ministry spokesman told AFP.

It was the third such launch by the North in two weeks, as the isolated state steps up its military threats to protest ongoing Seoul-Washington joint army drills being held south of the border.

The North last Monday fired five short-range rockets or missiles into the sea off the east coast, days after test-firing two medium-range missiles.

The latest launch comes ahead of trilateral talks between the leaders of the US, Japan and the South aimed at discussing the growing threat of the nuclear-armed North.

On Thursday US President Barack Obama will meet his South Korean counterpart Park Geun-Hye and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the sidelines of a nuclear security forum in Washington.

Military tensions have soared on the peninsula since Pyongyang carried out its fourth atomic test in January, followed a month later by a long-range rocket launch widely seen as a disguised ballistic missile test.

The UN Security Council responded earlier this month by slapping its toughest-ever sanctions on the North.

Seoul and Washington started their largest-ever joint military drills on March 7. Since then the North has issued a series of threats, including warnings of nuclear attacks against the South and US.

Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama will discuss the growing threat of a nuclear-armed North Korea at a meeting this week with the leaders of Japan and South Korea, the White House said Monday.

The trilateral sit-down on Thursday with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Park Geun-Hye will take place on the sidelines of a wider nuclear security summit bringing together delegations from dozens of countries.

It has been scheduled for the same day Obama holds one-on-one talks with Xi Jinping, the president of North Korea's main diplomatic ally and economic benefactor, China.

"This meeting will be an opportunity for the three leaders to discuss common responses to the threat posed by North Korea and to advance areas of trilateral security cooperation in the region and globally," the White House said.

In his talks with Park and Abe, Obama is sure to discuss the ramped-up rhetoric coming from North Korea, which carried out a nuclear test in January and a long-range rocket launch a month later, triggering new international sanctions.

In recent weeks, North Korea has claimed a series of key technical breakthroughs in its development of a long-range nuclear strike capability, and conducted its first test firing in two years of a medium-range ballistic missile.

Experts say the claims are likely a mix of fact and exaggeration. However, there is a consensus that North Korea is making steady progress towards its goal of developing an inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM) that can accurately deliver a nuclear bomb as far as the continental United States.

That threat will loom large on the agenda of Thursday's trilateral meeting as well as Obama's talks with Xi.

US policymakers have pushed Beijing to put pressure on Pyongyang to stop its nuclear provocations, but China is concerned about the stability of its unpredictable neighbour.

North Korea, meanwhile, has labelled Obama's hosting of the two-day nuclear security summit in Washington as an act of "shameful" hypocrisy.

"The US and its South Korean puppet group are going to use the above-said summit as a means for ratcheting up the sanctions against (North Korea), and finding fault with its legitimate access to nuclear weapons," the North's official KCNA news agency said in a commentary.

"It is ridiculous for the US and its followers to hold such a nonsensical summit," it said.

The summit itself will not address issues related to North Korea's recent weapons tests, with the fear that Islamic State militants could obtain nuclear material expected to weigh more heavily on the agenda.