North Korea ‘fires’ missile over Japan

29 Aug,North Korea fired a ballistic missile that flew over Japan before plunging into the northern Pacific Ocean, officials said on Tuesday, a step the Japanese prime minister termed a “grave threat”.

The launch appears to be the first to cross over Japan since 2009, and comes amid ongoing annual military drill being carried out between the US and its close ally in the region, South Korea.

Their outrageous act of firing a missile over our country is an unprecedented, serious and grave threat…

Shinzo Abe, Japanese prime minister

The  South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the missile travelled around 2,700km and reached a maximum height of 550km as it flew over the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido and landed in the sea.

The projectile was launched from the Sunan region near the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, just before 6am on Tuesday (21:00 GMT on Monday), the South Korean military said.

Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported that the missile flew over the northernmost main island of Hokkaido and broke into three pieces and fell into the waters 1,180km east of Cape Erimo.

The Japanese government’s J-Alert warning system advised people in northern Japan to take precautions, but NHK said there was no sign of damage.

Japan’s military did not attempt to shoot down the missile, which passed over Japanese territory around 6:06am (2106 GMT).

There was no immediate comment from North Korea.

The missile fell into the waters 1,180km east of Cape Erimo

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the missile launch over its territory was an “unprecedented, serious and grave threat”.

“Their outrageous act of firing a missile over our country is an unprecedented, serious and grave threat and greatly damages the regional peace and security,” he told reporters.

In a 40-minute telephone call with US President Donald Trump, he said, the two allies had agreed to “further strengthen pressure against North Korea”.

The Japanese leader said he will also call for an urgent meeting in the UN to discuss further action, strongly demanding stepped up pressures against the reclusive neighbour.

Al Jazeera’s Wayne Hay, reporting from Seoul, said that – although there have been several recent missile launches by North Korea and there are often launches this time of year due to military exercises between the US and its allies in the region – a missile passing over the Japanese mainland will be seen as a bigger provocation.

“So this will certainly be viewed by Japan, the United States and South Korea as an uptick in the seriousness of the missile launches coming from North Korea,” he said.

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North Korea typically reacts with anger to US-South Korean military drills, which are happening now, often staging weapons tests and releasing threats to Seoul and Washington in its state-controlled media.

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But animosity is higher than usual following threats by Trump to unleash “fire and fury” on the North, and Pyongyang’s stated plan to consider firing some of its missiles toward Guam.

Michael Penn,president of the Shingetsu news agency in Tokyo, told Al Jazeera that North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un is continuing to test the boundaries as he has done since coming to power in 2011.

“What is different now, and what makes the situation potentially a lot more dangerous, is that people no longer know what the United States’ policy is going to be. They no longer know how President Trump is going to react,” said Penn.

“This is really the first major test since the ‘fire and fury’ speech which Donald trump gave. So the big ‘X factor’ – the thing of most concern – is what is the Trump administration going to do because its policies seem to have become rather unstable as compared to the past.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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