Tension escalates as North Korea ‘fires’ missile over Japan

  • The missile traveled 2,700km and reached a maximum height of 550km as it flew over the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido
  • Japanese premier termed the act outrageous and 'unprecedented, serious and grave threat'

PYONGYANG – North Korea fired a ballistic missile on Tuesday morning that flew over Japan before plunging into the northern Pacific Ocean.

The launch appeared to be the first to cross over Japan since 2009, and comes at a time when US and its close ally South Korea are engaged in annual military drill.

The South’s joint chiefs of staff said the missile traveled about 2,700km and reached a maximum height of 550km as it flew over the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido before finally landing in the sea.

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

Yoon Young-chan, the head of South Korea’s Presidential Office Public Affairs Office, told reporters that four F-15K fighter jets dropped eight one-ton MK-84 bombs at a shooting range.
The operation was meant ‘to showcase a strong punishment capability against the North,’ he 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 although Tokyo warned citizens in the north of the country to take cover.

Reacting to the launch, the visibly upset Japan’s prime minister dubbed the act outrageous and said the missile launch over its territory was an ‘unprecedented, serious and grave threat’ that ‘greatly damages the regional peace and security’.

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”.

Abe said he would also call for an urgent meeting at the UN to discuss further action, strongly demanding stepped up pressures against the reclusive neighbor.

Apart from Abe, world leaders including Boris Johnson also condemned the launch.