A North Korean ballistic missile flew over Japan
North Korea on Tuesday fired an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) that flew over Japan, the first since 2017, prompting Tokyo to activate its warning system and urge residents of certain regions to seek shelter.
Pyongyang’s last missile launch over Japan was in 2017, at the height of the “fire and rage” period in which North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and then-US President Donald Trump exchanged insults.
Tokyo confirmed the shooting, activated – unusually – a public alert system and asked residents of two northern regions of Japan to seek shelter if possible.
– “Provocation” –
“A ballistic missile is likely to have passed over our country before crashing into the Pacific Ocean. This is an act of violence that follows the recent repeated launches of ballistic missiles. We condemn this in the strongest terms,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters .
On Tuesday, the South Korean military said it had detected the launch of an intermediate-range ballistic missile that flew a distance of about 4,500 km at an altitude of 970 km at a speed of almost Mach 17, overflying Japan to the east. At first she had spoken of a “medium-range missile”.
“The precise details are being thoroughly analyzed in cooperation with the United States and the international community,” South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.
Seoul called the firing a “provocation” that “clearly violates universal principles and United Nations standards.”
After consulting Japan and South Korea, Washington promised a “robust” response to this shot. US National Security Advisor Jack Sullivan also said he wanted to reiterate his country’s “iron-clad commitment” to its Asian allies.
About 28,500 American soldiers are present in South Korea to protect them from the North.
Same tone on the part of the European Union. The President of the European Council, Charles Michel, condemned “in the strongest terms” an “unjustified aggression”. This is “a deliberate attempt” to compromise security in the region,” he tweeted.
According to Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada, it could be a Hwasong-12 missile used by Pyongyang in the last two missile overpasses over Japan. If so, that shot would set a new distance record, which Tokyo estimates at around 4,500 km.
North Korea, which has nuclear weapons, has ramped up plans to modernize its armaments this year.
Notably, it launched an ICBM for the first time since 2017 and reviewed its legislation to make its status as a nuclear power “irreversible”.
Last week it fired four short-range ballistic missiles.
– “Overtake South Korea” –
The shooting came as Seoul, Tokyo and Washington conducted trilateral anti-submarine drills for the first time in five years on Sept. 30, days after US and South Korean naval forces conducted large-scale maneuvers well off the peninsula.
North Korea, subject to UN sanctions over its weapons programs, generally seeks to maximize the geopolitical impact of its tests by timing it when it sees the best.
“If Pyongyang fired a missile over Japan, it could represent a significant escalation of its recent provocations,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.
“North Korea always starts with a low-level provocation and gradually raises the level to attract global media attention,” said Go Myong-hyun, a researcher at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies.
“By firing the missile over Japan, they are showing that their nuclear threat is not just directed at South Korea.”
South Korean and American officials have been warning for months that North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un is preparing for another nuclear test.
It could be carried out after the next Chinese Communist Party congress, which begins Oct. 16, several senior officials from America’s Asia-Pacific Command said this weekend.
The fact that North Korea has a nuclear weapon is all the more concerning because, unlike other nuclear powers, the regime in Pyongyang does not consider these types of weapons a deterrent that will never be used.
Pyongyang has tested nuclear bombs six times since 2006. The last and most powerful test came in 2017 with an estimated yield of 250 kilotons.
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