North Korea launched a ballistic missile that flew over the territory of Japan and then fell into the Pacific Ocean about 3,000 kilometers from the Japanese coast. It was the first time since 2017 that a North Korean missile flew over Japanese territory.
According to initial estimates, the rocket flew 4,500 kilometers at an altitude of 970 kilometers, which is higher than the International Space Station, and then fell into the Pacific Ocean. With this length, it could also hit the American island of Guam.
Japanese authorities issued a warning for the northern part of the country, urging people to go to shelters, and train services on the island of Hokkaido were temporarily suspended. There were no injuries.
Prime Minister of Japan Fumio Kishida strongly condemned North Korea’s action, and the Japanese government convened a meeting of the National Security Council. South Korean president Yoon Suk-yeol called Pyongyang’s action a “reckless provocation”. He called for a sharp response and the adoption of appropriate measures in cooperation with the United States and the international community, his office announced. The United Nations has banned North Korea from testing ballistic and nuclear weapons, and flying missiles over another country’s territory without prior warning or consultation is against the rules of the international community.
Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said that North Korea had launched four Hwasong 12-type missiles in the past, so it could be the same type this time as well. If this is the case, the rocket’s estimated flight distance would be a new record.
Numerous rocket tests
Washington also responded to the launch of the ballistic missile, announcing that the US national security adviser Jake Sullivan spoke to his colleagues in Seoul and Tokyo. They discussed appropriate and decisive joint and international responses, and Sullivan reiterated the US commitment to the defense of Japan and South Korea. In a separate statement, the US military’s Indo-Pacific Command also condemned the missile launch. “The United States condemns these actions and urges North Korea to refrain from further illegal and destabilizing actions,” they announced.
Just last week, North Korea launched four ballistic missiles. Experts warn that Pyongyang is responding to the recent naval military exercises of South Korean and American forces with a number of missile tests. The two countries have long held joint exercises, which they insist are purely defensive, and which North Korea sees as preparations for an invasion.
The UN, the US and South Korea have also been warning for months that Pyongyang is preparing for another nuclear test. This year, with the help of satellite images, it was noticed that construction work is underway at the Punggye-ri underground test facility in the north of the country, which the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had previously warned about.
Talks between the US and North Korea stalled after the failed second meeting between the then US president Donald Trump and the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi in February 2019. Last year, Kim accused the administration of current US President Joe Biden of a hostile policy towards North Korea.