North Korea fires ballistic missile over Japan

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North Korea has fired a suspected missile over Japan, in what appears to be a deliberate escalation to get the attention of Tokyo and Washington.

The ballistic missile traveled about 4,500km (2,800 miles) before falling into the Pacific Ocean – far enough to hit the US island of Guam if it took another trajectory.

It is the first North Korean missile launch over Japan since 2017.

The launch saw Japan issue a rare alert to some citizens to take cover.

The UN prohibits North Korea from testing ballistic and nuclear weapons. Flying missiles towards or over other countries without any pre-warning or consultation also contravenes international norms.

Most countries avoid doing it completely as it can easily be mistaken for an attack. While it is not as big as a nuclear test – which could be next – it can be considered hugely provocative.

People in the north of Japan, including Hokkaido island, reportedly woke up to the noise of blaring sirens and text alerts that read: “North Korea appears to have launched a missile. Please evacuate into buildings or underground.”

As the missile flew overhead, they were warned to look out for falling debris.

Officials later said the intermediate-range ballistic missile fell into the Pacific Ocean far from Japan, and there were no reported injuries.

It had covered the longest distance ever traveled by a North Korean missile and reached a height of around 1000km – higher than the International Space Station.

Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida described the launch as “violent behavior”, while defense minister Yasukazu Hamada said Japan would not rule out any options to strengthen its defenses including “counterattack capabilities”.

The US National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson called it a “dangerous and reckless decision” that was “destabilizing” to the region.

The launch comes as Japan, the US, and South Korea have been working together to strengthen their defenses, in response to the growing threat posed by the North.

Last week, the three countries conducted naval exercises together for the first time since 2017. Such drills have long antagonized Pyongyang leader Kim Jong-un, who views them as proof that his enemies are preparing for war.

Following the combined exercises in 2017, North Korea fired two missiles over Japan in response. A week later, it conducted a nuclear test.

Recent intelligence has suggested that North Korea is getting ready to test another nuclear weapon.

Many expected that North Korea would only do so until after China – its main ally – holds its Communist party congress later this month.

Agencies

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