Tokyo says North Korea fired ballistic missile at Japan

TOKYO — North Korea fired what appears to be an intermediate-range ballistic missile at Japan, Japanese and South Korean officials said on Tuesday. The missile was the first North Korean projectile to pass through Japanese airspace since 2017, landing in the Pacific Ocean.

The Japanese government issued a rare evacuation order on Tuesday morning, urging residents in the northern regions of Aomori and Hokkaido to take refuge. Japanese officials said the missile flew out of the country’s exclusive economic zone, but they warned of falling debris.

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

In recent weeks, the governments of the United States, Japan and South Korea have all conducted military exercises aimed at demonstrating the readiness of allies to work together in the event of a conflict. The latest launch comes as the United States and South Korea wrap up joint military exercises involving the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan.

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While allies say the drills are defensive in nature, Kim Jong Un’s regime has long viewed them as a hostile act and has used them to justify its weapons development and nuclear program. Tuesday’s launch was North Korea’s seventh missile launch over Japan since 1998.

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

North Korea’s foreign ministry announced on Tuesday that it supported Russia’s announcement to annex parts of Ukraine as Pyongyang and Moscow drew closer after the invasion. Meanwhile, the diplomatic row between Japan and Russia is deepening, with Tokyo expelling a Russian consul on Monday in retaliation for the detention and expulsion of a Japanese consul in Vladivostok. Japan is one of the countries to impose broad economic sanctions on Russia this year.

Residents of Aomori Prefecture on Tuesday morning wake up to the blaring siren Warn them of missile launch. Fishermen working off the coast of Aomori where the missile fell, told Japanese news media the launch posed a serious threat to their safety.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida convened a national security meeting and condemned the launch. Japanese officials said their strongest words of condemnation came through diplomatic channels.

“The recent multiple missile launches are outrageous and we strongly condemn it,” Kishida said.

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According to missile experts, the intermediate-range ballistic missile could be similar to or could be the Hwasong-12. The missile’s range includes Japan and the U.S. territory of Guam in the Pacific Ocean east of Japan.

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

From North Korea’s point of view, missiles with a range of more than 4,000 kilometers don’t have many options for flight paths, except for the route over Hokkaido and to the Pacific, said Masashi Murano, chief researcher for Japan at the Hudson Institute. Other options would be seen as efforts to strike the continental U.S. or reach Guam.

Murano said that while it was unclear whether North Korea fired a new missile or one it had previously tested, Pyongyang likely saw this moment as a good time to test its weapons capabilities.

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“The fact that the U.S. is reacting strongly to short-range missiles fired every day may have something to do with that,” Murano said. “Furthermore, the Biden administration has been focused on persistent problems — the handling of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine may also have played a role. effect. Therefore, [Kim] It may be thought that it can now be tested without severe penalties from the US. “

Daniel Kritenbrink, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said in an online event shortly after the event that the U.S. would “take all necessary measures, involving all elements of U.S. national power.” to defend Korea and Japan. According to Reuters, the launch.

Krittenbrink said the U.S. would keep the door open for dialogue but would “resolutely respond” to the growing threat from North Korea.

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

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