North Korea has fired a ballistic missile over Japan, in what appears to be a deliberate escalation to get the attention of Tokyo and Washington.
The missile travelled 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 North’s first missile launch over Japan since 2017. Japan issued an alert to some citizens to take cover.
The South Korean and U.S. militaries responded by launching fighter jets which fired weapons at a target off South Korea’s west coast in a show of strength against North Korea.
The North Korean missile launch was its most provocative weapons demonstration this year, as it pushes to develop a fully fledged nuclear arsenal capable of threatening the U.S. mainland and its allies with the goal of wresting concessions from those countries, some experts say.
North Korea has test-fired about 40 missiles over about 20 different launch events this year as its leader, Kim Jong Un, refuses to return to nuclear diplomacy with the United States.
The United States strongly condemned North Korea’s “dangerous and reckless decision” to launch what it described as a “long-range ballistic missile” over Japan.
“The United States will continue its efforts to limit (North Korea’s) ability to advance its prohibited ballistic missile and weapons of mass destruction programs, including with allies and U.N. partners,” National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a statement.
South Korea and Japan earlier said the missile had an intermediate or longer range. If the launch involved a long-range missile, it could be a test of a weapon capable of targeting the U.S. homeland, some experts say.
The launch is the fifth round of weapons tests by North Korea in the past 10 days. The testing spree is an apparent response to two sets of military drills — one between Washington and Seoul and the other involving Washington, Seoul and Tokyo — off the Korean Peninsula’s east coast last week.—AP