Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has promised to “protect the lives” of his country’s people after North Korea fired a missile over northern Japan this morning.
- Japanese military did not attempt to shoot missile down
- Missile lands in sea off northern island of Hokkaido
- US says launch does not pose threat to North America
The missile was launched from near North Korean capital Pyongyang and flew about 2,700 kilometres, reaching an altitude of about 550km.
It flew over Japan’s northernmost main island of Hokkaido before breaking into three pieces and falling into the sea about 1,180 km to the east of Japan.
Air raid warnings sounded in northern Japan as the missile approached, with people being warned to take shelter in basements.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the missile launch posed an “unprecedented threat” and was a clear violation of United Nations resolutions.
“This ballistic missile launch appeared to fly over our territory,” the top government spokesman told reporters.
“It is an unprecedented, serious and grave threat to our nation.”
“We will make utmost efforts to firmly protect the lives of the people,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters in brief remarks as he entered his office for emergency meetings.
The Japanese military did not attempt to shoot down the missile.
Pentagon says ‘no threat to USA’
The last time a North Korean missile flew over Japan was in 2009.
A former South Korean military official, who is now an analyst at Seoul’s Institute for Far Eastern Studies, said the early flight data suggested the missile was likely a Hwasong-12, a new intermediate-range missile that the North has recently threatened to fire toward the US Pacific territory of Guam.
The Pentagon said it was gathering more information but the missile did not pose a threat to North America.
“We can confirm that the missile launched by North Korea flew over Japan,” Pentagon spokesman Colonel Robert Manning told reporters.
“North American Aerospace Defence Command [NORAD] determined the missile launch from North Korea did not pose a threat to North America.”
The launch marks a sharp escalation in tensions over Pyongyang’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles in defiance of UN sanctions.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un earlier this month threatened to fire missiles into the sea near the US Pacific territory of Guam and President Donald Trump warned Pyongyang would face “fire and fury” if it threatened the US.
North Korea typically reacts with anger to US-South Korean military drills, which are happening now, often staging weapons tests and releasing threats to Seoul and Washington in its state-controlled media.
Tuesday’s launch comes days after the North fired what was assessed as three short-range ballistic missiles into the sea and a month after its second flight test of an intercontinental ballistic missile, which analysts say could reach deep into the US mainland when perfected.
North Korea first fired a rocket over Japanese territory in August 1998 that outside experts called Taepodong-1 based on the name of the village it was launched from.
It flew about 1,500 kilometres before landing in the Pacific Ocean. The North later said was a satellite launch.
North Korea flew another rocket over Japan again in April 2009 and said that, too, was carrying a satellite.
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