North Korea fired a nuclear capable missile directly over Japan early on Tuesday morning, as Tokyo warned its citizens to ‘prepare for the worst.’
According to the BBC, this latest launch is the first missile powerful enough to carry a nuclear warhead. As a result, the UN Security Council is expected to hold an emergency meeting later on Tuesday.
As sirens sounded all over northern Japan alerting citizens that they must seek shelter, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe condemned the move by North Korea as an “unprecedented” threat to his country, and vowed to protect Japanese citizens at all costs.
“We will do our utmost to protect people’s lives,” Abe told reporters. “This reckless act of launching a missile that flies over our country is an unprecedented, serious and important threat.”
Following a 40-minute phone call with Donald Trump, he said he and the US president had agreed to escalate the pressure on North Korea. “We must immediately hold an emergency meeting at the United Nations, and further strengthen pressure against North Korea,” Mr Abe said.
Rex Tillerson, the US Secretary of State, and South Korea’s foreign minister agreed to consider tougher sanctions against the North in response to the missile test, South Korea said.
Yoon Young-chan, a spokesman for the presidential Blue House in Seoul, also told a briefing that South Korean fighter jets conducted bombing drills at a firing exercise ground after Pyongyang’s latest missile launch.
Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, said he was “outraged at (the) reckless provocation by North Korea”. He strongly condemned the “latest illegal missile launch”. Theresa May is flying to Japan on Wednesday for trade talks.
Mr Kim has overseen more than 80 missile tests – more than both his father and grandfather combined.
The regime fired several short-range projectiles into the sea off its east coast on Saturday in what was thought to be a response to US-South Korean joint military exercises.
Saturday’s launch was the first since Pyongyang test-fired a intercontinental ballistic missiles on July 28 that could have been designed to reach 6,200 miles, putting parts of the US mainland within reach. The North Korean dictator threatened to target Guam, the US territory, with a missile.
Analysts speculate the North may have tested a Hwasong-12 missile, a new intermediate-range projectile that Pyongyang recently threatened to fire towards Guam.
The missile landed nowhere near Guam, which is about 1,550 miles south of Tokyo, but the length of Tuesday’s launch may have been designed for the North to show it could follow through on its threat.
“The launch doubled as a threat to Washington, not only because of the US military bases in Japan, but also that the North showed it has the real capability to fire missiles to waters near Guam if it chose to shoot them in that direction,” said Moon Seong Mook, a former South Korean military official and current analyst for the Seoul-based Korea Research Institute for National Strategy.
Seoul says the missile was launched from Sunan, which is where Pyongyang’s international airport is, opening the possibility that North Korea launched a road-mobile missile from an airport runway.
North Korea fired what it said was a rocket carrying a communications satellite into orbit over Japan in 2009. The United States, Japan and South Korea considered it a ballistic missile test.
“It’s pretty unusual,” said Jeffrey Lewis, head of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of Strategic Studies in California. “North Korea’s early space launches in 1998 and 2009 went over Japan, but that’s not the same thing as firing a missile.”