North Korea fires ballistic missile over Japan, Tokyo says

TOKYO – North Korea fired a suspected intermediate-range ballistic missile over Japan on Tuesday, Japanese and South Korean officials said. The missile, which was the first North Korean projectile to pass through Japanese airspace since 2017, landed in the Pacific Ocean.

The Japanese government issued a rare evacuation order on Tuesday morning, urging residents of Aomori and Hokkaido prefectures in the northern region to seek shelter. Japanese officials said the missile flew outside the country’s exclusive economic zone, but warned of falling debris.

North Korea has tested an unprecedented number of missiles this year as it diversifies and expands its weapons arsenal as part of leader Kim Jong Un’s five-year plan. North Korea has conducted five rounds of ballistic missile tests since September 24, ahead of Vice President Harris’ visit to the region.

In recent weeks, the US, Japanese and South Korean governments have all conducted military exercises designed to demonstrate the allies’ readiness to work together in the event of a conflict. The latest launch came as the United States and South Korea wrap up their joint military exercises involving the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan.

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While allied countries say the drills are defensive in nature, Kim’s regime has long viewed them as hostile acts and used them to justify its weapons development and nuclear program. Tuesday’s launch is the seventh time since 1998 that North Korea has fired a missile over Japan.

There are signs that a new cycle of escalation is already taking shape, with North Korea rejecting overtures and possibly preparing for a seventh nuclear test amid a diplomatic impasse with Washington and changing security dynamics in the region.

Tuesday morning residents of Aomori prefecture woke up to the sound of blaring sirens warn them of missile launch. Fishermen working off the coast of Aomori in the waters where the missile fell told Japanese news media that the launch was a serious threat to their safety.

Japan’s Prime Minister, Fumio Kishida, called a meeting of the National Security Council in response and condemned the launch. Japanese officials said they were sending the strongest words of condemnation through diplomatic channels.

“The recent repeated firing of missiles is outrageous and we strongly condemn this,” Kishida said.

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The medium-range ballistic missile is believed to be or may be similar to the Hwasong-12, according to missile experts. The missile’s range includes Japan and Guam, a US territory in the Pacific located east of Japan.

North Korea fired the missile from Chagang province in the north of the country, South Korean military officials said. The missile was launched at 7:22 a.m., and it flew 4,600 kilometers (2,858 miles) for 22 minutes over Aomori Prefecture before landing in the Pacific Ocean, Japanese officials said. Its maximum altitude was 1,000 km (621 miles).

Min Joo Kim in Seoul and Julia Mio Inuma in Tokyo contributed to this report.

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