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.
Japan urged residents to take shelter early Tuesday morning after North Korea fired a ballistic missile without warning over the country for the first time in five years, in a major and potentially dangerous escalation of recent weapons tests by the Kim Jong Un regime.
The intermediate-range missile was launched from Mupyong-ri near North Korea’s central border with China at around 7:23 a.m. local time, according to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS). It flew about 4,600 kilometres (2,858 miles) for 20 minutes at an estimated maximum altitude of 1,000 kilometres (621 miles) over Japan’s Tohoku region on the main island of Honshu before falling into the Pacific Ocean, some 3,000 kilometres (1,864 miles) from the country’s shore. Japanese officials said.
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.
People in the north of Japan, including Hokkaido Island and Aomori city, reportedly woke up to the noise of sirens and text alerts which 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. Many appeared to remain calm according to reports, with one video showing Tokyo commuters walking calmly as loudspeakers blared out warnings.
But others were more shaken. “If a missile hit, I was worried it would be a big problem not only here but also nationwide,” Aomori resident Kazuko Ebina told the Asahi Shimbun newspaper.
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 travelled by a North Korean missile, and reached a height of around 1000km – higher than the International Space Station.
South Korea, US condemn missile launch
Other governments were quick to decry the launch, with South Korea’s President Yoon Suk Yeol branding it a “reckless” provocation, adding that North Korea will face a decisive response from the South Korean military and its allies.
The White House also “strongly condemned” the test, with National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson calling it a “destabilizing” action that shows North Korea’s “blatant disregard for United Nations Security Council resolutions and international safety 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.
North Korea’s potential nuclear plans
Tuesday’s launch could herald an intensification of provocations by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un,
“Pyongyang is still in the middle of a provocation and testing cycle and is likely waiting until after China’s mid-October Communist Party Congress to conduct an even more significant test,”
“The Kim regime is developing weapons such as tactical nuclear warheads and submarine-launched ballistic missiles as part of a long-term strategy to outrun South Korea in an arms race and drive wedges among US allies.”
A man walks past a television screen showing a news broadcast with file footage of a North Korean missile test, at a railway station in Seoul on September 29, 2022. – North Korea fired two ballistic missiles on September 29, just hours after US Vice President Kamala Harris left South Korea, where she had toured the heavily-fortified Demilitarized Zone which divides the peninsula
Four previous missile launches occurred in the space of a week in late September and early October, around the same time US Vice President Kamala Harris made an official visit to Japan and South Korea, and as US, Japanese and South Korean navies held joint exercises.
North Korea’s tests also come as international attention remains firmly focused on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – and as both Moscow and Beijing appear reluctant to side with the West to further censure Pyongyang.
the country is trying “to secure a diversified deterrent capability”. This is a widely held view among the North Korea watching community.