North Korean missile launches escalate tensions
A suspected intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) fired by North Korea prompted the Japanese government to issue evacuation orders for the country’s northern and central regions.
The latest North Korean weapons tests, on Thursday, have heightened regional tensions. They come a day after Pyongyang fired more than 20 missiles, a record.
Tokyo denied a government warning that a missile had overflown Japan.
The office of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida warned inhabitants in the northern and central prefectures of Miyagi, Yamagata, and Niigata to go within strong buildings or underground. After the missile alarm, bullet train services in certain zones resumed.
Kishida blasted North Korea’s tests and said officials were analysing the weaponry.
“North Korea’s repeated missile launches are an outrage and cannot be forgiven,” he continued.
Japanese Defence Minister Yasukazu Hamada said the first missile was launched around 7:40am (22:40 GMT on Wednesday) on a probable trajectory over Japan but disappeared from radars over the Sea of Japan.
“We detected a launch that showed the potential to fly over Japan and therefore triggered the J Alert, but after checking the flight we confirmed that it had not passed over Japan,” Hamada told media.
He said the missile reached 2,000 km (1,200 miles) and 750 km (460 miles). A “lofted trajectory” sends a missile high into space to avoid neighbouring countries.
Japan’s Coast Guard confirmed the missile’s fall 30 minutes after launch.
Stage separation suggests the first missile may be an ICBM, according to Yonhap News Agency. A defence source later said the missile failed in normal flight after the second stage separation.
The South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff reported the long-range missile was launched near Pyongyang.
North Korea launched two more missiles an hour after the first. South Korea says both were short-range missiles fired from Kaechon north of Pyongyang.