As North Korea intensifies testing of weapons intended to attack nearby U.S. allies, the North on Tuesday launched an intermediate-range ballistic missile over Japan for the first time in five years, causing Japan to issue evacuation alerts and stop trains.
Since January, when North Korea launched a Hwasong-12 intermediate-range missile capable of reaching the American island of Guam, it has conducted only a handful of smaller missile tests. To address the launch, both Japan and South Korea convened security consultations.
According to the Japanese prime minister’s office, at least one missile launched from North Korea was thought to have fallen in the Pacific Ocean after flying over Japan.
In the first “J-alert” warning since North Korea launched a Hwasong-12 missile over Japan in 2017 as part of its last provocative cycle of nuclear tests, Japanese officials warned people in northeastern areas to flee to shelters.
In the Hokkaido and Aomori areas, trains were halted until the administration announced later that the North Korean missile looked to have fallen into the Pacific.
The fire, which came after a recent string of launches by North Korea, is a dangerous conduct, and I strongly condemn it, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters. He said that he will call a meeting of the National Security Council to consider the issue.
No damage was immediately recorded from the missile, which flew for 22 minutes before touching down in seas outside of Japan’s exclusive economic zone, according to Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff of South Korea claimed to have discovered the missile being launched from North Korea’s interior north. According to the report, the South Korean military increased its observation posture and kept itself ready in close collaboration with the US military.
The missile may reach Guam at a distance of 4,000 kilometers (2,485 miles), according to South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol.
Yoon said that he convened a National Security Council meeting to address the launch and that the South and the larger international community will respond harshly to the North’s “reckless nuclear provocations.”
In what was seen as an apparent retaliation to bilateral military exercises between South Korea and the United States and additional training among the allies, including Japan last week, the launch represents the sixth round of missile tests by North Korea in the previous 10 days.
The short-range missiles launched during the previous four launches landed in the seas between the Korean Peninsula and Japan. These missiles have the capacity to strike South Korean sites.
This year, North Korea tested around 40 missiles over 20 distinct launch occasions as Kim Jong Un vowed to increase the size of his nuclear arsenal and refused to resume nuclear negotiations with the United States.
According to some analysts, Kim would ultimately attempt to utilize his expanded arsenal to persuade Washington to recognize his nation as a nuclear state, which he believes is required to secure the easing of international sanctions and other concessions.