North Korea fired a ballistic missile over Japan for the first time in five years, which led to air raid sirens blaring in two northern prefectures.
The launch represented a major escalation by North Korea, which has conducted a flurry of missile tests in recent days as the United States held military drills in the region with South Korea and Japan.
The medium-range missile was fired from Mupyong-ri, near North Korea’s central border with China, according to the South Korean military. It was launched at 7:22 a.m. and landed in the Pacific Ocean 22 minutes later, Japan’s chief cabinet minister, Hirokazu Matsuno, said. It crashed outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone, which extends 200 nautical miles from its shores, and flew about 4,600 kilometers, or 2,850 miles.
BREAKING: Air raid sirens sounding in Japan following reports of North Korea missile fire, missile reportedly overflew the country and landed into Pacific Ocean pic.twitter.com/PwNscNouWi
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Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida condemned to move.
Japanese authorities issued a “J-alert” to residents in northeaster regions to evacuate to buildings nearby, the first such alert since 2017. Trains were temporarily suspended in Japan’s Hokkaido and Aomori regions before their operations were resumed after a government notice that the North Korean missile appeared to have landed into the Pacific.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters that “the firing, which followed a recent series of launches by North Korea, is a reckless act and I strongly condemn it.” He said he will a National Security Council to discuss the situation.
Regional leaders are bracing themselves for even more launches from North Korea.
“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,” said Leif-Eric Easley, associate professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul.
“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.”
Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute, said a nuclear test could even be on the cards. “North Korea is going to keep conducting missile tests until the current round of modernization is done. I don’t think a nuclear explosion is far behind,” he told CNN.
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