NORTH Korea fired a missile early Friday that flew over Japan’s northern Hokkaido region far out into the Pacific Ocean, prompting Japanese officials to issue a warning on television and via cellphones for citizens to take shelter inside a building or underground.
The missile was launched at 6:57 a.m. Japan time (2157 GMT), flew over Hokkaido and splashed down at 7:16 a.m. (2216 GMT) some 2,000 kilometres east of the northern island’s Cape Erimo, said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga.
“These repeated provocations on the part of North Korea are unpermissible and we protest in the strongest words,” Suga said.
The unidentified missile reached an altitude of about 770 km and flew 3,700 km, according to South Korea’s military – far enough to reach the US Pacific territory of Guam.
“The international community needs to come together and send a clear message to North Korea that it is threatening world peace with its actions,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters in Tokyo. Abe described the launch as “unacceptable”.
Shortly after the launch, US officials said Washington’s commitments to the defence of its allies remained “ironclad”. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called for “new measures” against Pyongyang and said that “these continued provocations only deepen North Korea‘s diplomatic and economic isolation”.
The latest test comes almost two weeks after Pyongyang tested its sixth and biggest nuclear bomb to date. In response to the test, the United Nations Security Council unanimously stepped up sanctions against North Korea on Monday, imposing a ban on its textile exports and capping imports of crude oil.
The sanctions were the strongest measures yet taken against the hermit kingdom. They were met with threats from Pyongyang’s ambassador, Han Tae Song, who said on Wednesday the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is “ready to use a form of ultimate means”.
Han accused the US administration of being “fired up for political, economic, and military confrontation,” and of being “obsessed with the wild game of reversing the DPRK’s development of nuclear force which has already reached the completion phase”.
“The forthcoming measures by DPRK will make the US suffer the greatest pain it ever experienced in its history,” he said.
International condemnation of Friday’s launch has been quick.
“This is another dangerous, reckless, criminal act by the North Korean regime, threatening the stability of the region and the world and we condemn it, utterly,” Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said in an interview with Sky News on Friday.
“This is a sign, I believe, of their frustration at the increased sanctions on North Korea, recently imposed by the Security Council. It’s a sign that the sanctions are working.”
According to Reuters, US President Donald Trump has been briefed on the missile launch by White House Chief of Staff General Kelly.
Additional reporting from Reuters