North Korea fired a ballistic missile over Japan’s northern Hokkaido island into the sea early on Tuesday, prompting warnings to residents to take cover and drawing a sharp reaction from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The test, one of the most provocative ever from the reclusive state, came as U.S. and South Korean forces conduct annual military exercises on the peninsula, to which North Korea strenuously objects.
North Korea has conducted dozens of ballistic missile tests under young leader Kim Jong Un, the most recent on Saturday, but firing projectiles over mainland Japan is rare.
“North Korea’s reckless action is an unprecedented, serious and a grave threat to our nation,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters.
Abe said he spoke to U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday and they agreed to increase pressure on North Korea. Trump also said the United States was “100 percent with Japan”, Abe told reporters.
South Korea’s military said the missile was launched from near the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, just before 6 a.m. (2100 GMT Monday) and flew 2,700 km (1,680 miles), reaching an altitude of about 550 km (340 miles).
Four South Korean fighter jets bombed a military firing range on Tuesday after President Moon Jae-in asked the military to demonstrate capabilities to counter North Korea.
South Korea and the United States had discussed deploying additional “strategic assets” on the Korean peninsula, the presidential Blue House said in a statement, without giving more details.
North Korea remained defiant.
“The U.S. should know that it can neither browbeat the DPRK with any economic sanctions and military threats and blackmail nor make the DPRK flinch from the road chosen by itself,” North Korea’s official Rodong Sinmun said later on Tuesday, using the initials of the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Global markets reacted to the escalation in tension, buying safe-haven assets such as gold, the Swiss franc and even the Japanese yen on expectation domestic investors would bring large amounts of currency home in times of uncertainty.
Stocks fell, with Japan’s Nikkei 225 index closing down half a percent, and South Korea’s KOSPI index 0.25 percent lower.
Some experts said the test appeared to have been of a recently developed intermediate-range Hwasong-12 missile, but there was no clear consensus.
This month, North Korea threatened to fire four missiles into the sea near the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam after Trump said it would face “fire and fury” if it threatened the United States.
“Alas, Pyongyang has demonstrated that its threats to the U.S. base on Guam are not a bluff,” Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of Russia’s upper house of parliament’s international affairs committee, said on social media.
North Korea fired what it said was a rocket carrying a communications satellite into orbit over Japan in 2009 after warning of its plan. The United States, Japan and South Korea considered it a ballistic missile test.
Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the latest missile fell into the sea 1,180 km (735 miles) east of Cape Erimo on Hokkaido. Continue reading.