- A missile flies over Japan for the first time since 2017
- Perhaps it was a medium-range ballistic missile
- Japan issues shelter warning, stops some trains
- A clear test condemned by the United States, South Korea and Japan
SEOUL/TOKYO (Reuters) – Nuclear-armed North Korea fired a ballistic missile over Japan for the first time in five years on Tuesday, sending residents sheltering and temporarily suspending train operations in northern Japan.
The Japanese government has warned citizens to take cover as the missile appears to have flown over and overtaken its territory before falling into the Pacific Ocean.
It was the first North Korean missile to follow such a trajectory since 2017, and Tokyo said its range of 4,600 km (2,850 miles) was probably the longest distance traveled in a North Korean test flight, which is often “leveraged” higher in space. To avoid flying over neighboring countries.
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The latest launch was Pyongyang’s fifth in 10 days, amid military muscle flexing by the United States, South Korea and Japan. Last week, the three countries held a trilateral anti-submarine drill, including a US aircraft carrier that stopped in South Korea for the first time since 2017.
The latest tests elicited relatively muted reactions from Washington, which is focused on the war in Ukraine as well as other domestic and foreign crises, but the US military has ramped up displays of force in the region.
Tokyo said it did not take any steps to shoot down the missile. Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said Japan will not rule out any options, including counter-attack capabilities, as it looks to bolster its defenses in the face of repeated missile launches from North Korea. South Korea also said it would strengthen its military and increase the cooperation of allies.
The United States said it strongly condemned North Korea’s “dangerous and reckless” decision to launch a long-range ballistic missile over Japan.
“This destabilizing act demonstrates the DPRK’s blatant disregard for UN Security Council resolutions and international safety standards,” National Security Council spokeswoman Adrian Watson said in a statement, using North Korea’s official name.
real world test
Officials in Tokyo and Seoul said the missile flew between 4,500 and 4,600 km (2,850 miles) to a maximum altitude of about 1,000 km.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said it appeared to be an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) launched from North Korea’s Jagang Province. North Korea has used that province to launch several recent tests, including multiple missiles it claimed were “hypersonic”.
Pay the test East Japan Railway Company (9020.T) Japan’s broadcaster NHK has reported that train operations have been suspended in northern regions.
Kim Dong-yub, a former officer in the South Korean Navy, said initial flight details suggested the missile might have been a Hwasong-12 IRBM, which North Korea revealed in 2017 as part of its threatening plan to strike US military bases in Guam. He studies at Kyungnam University.
The Hwasong-12 was used in 2017 tests that flew over Japan, and Kim noted that it was also tested for launch from Jagang province in January.
Ankit Panda of the US-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said a long-distance missile launch allows North Korean scientists to test missiles under more realistic conditions.
“Compared to the usual very high trajectory, this allows them to expose a long-range reentry vehicle to thermal loads and atmospheric re-entry pressures that are more representative of the conditions they would withstand in the real world,” he said.
“Politically, it’s complicated: the missile pretty much flies out of the atmosphere when it’s over Japan, but it’s clearly distressing for the Japanese public to receive warnings of the possibility of a North Korean missile coming.”
Analysts said North Korea’s series of missile tests is helping to make more of its weapons operational, developing new capabilities, and sending a message that development is a sovereign right.
North Korea’s nuclear and missile weapons programs are prohibited by UN Security Council resolutions that have imposed sanctions on North Korea.
South Korean President Yoon Seok-yeol called the test “reckless” and said it would bring a decisive response from his country’s military, allies and the international community.
He has pushed for more military power to deter North Korea, and South Korea organized its own display of advanced weapons on Saturday to mark Armed Forces Day, including multiple launchers, ballistic missiles, main battle tanks, drones and F-35 fighters.
Speaking to reporters in Tokyo, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida called North Korea’s actions “barbaric” and said the government would continue to collect and analyze information.
The launch over Japan was “not a productive path forward,” Daniel Krettenbrink, the top US diplomat for East Asian affairs, said during an online event hosted by the Corian Institute of American Studies, but Washington has remained open to talks.
South Korean lawmakers said last week that North Korea had completed preparations for a nuclear test, which it may look to conduct sometime between this month’s Chinese Communist Party congress and the US midterm elections in November.
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Additional reporting by Hyonhee Shin and Josh Smith in Seoul, Chang-Ran Kim and Kantaro Komiya in Tokyo; Writing by Josh Smith. Editing by Leslie Adler, Chris Reese, Lincoln Fest and Jerry Doyle
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