North Korea fires missile over Japan
Latest provocation dims outlook for dialogue with NK
North Korea launched a ballistic missile over Japan, Tuesday, which traveled about 2,700 kilometers before landing in the North Pacific Ocean, according to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS).
“The unidentified missile reached a maximum altitude of 550 kilometers and was presumed to be an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM),” a JCS official said,
He added that the North’s latest provocation was apparently to protest Seoul and Washington’s ongoing joint military exercise, and to show its ability to strike U.S. bases stationed in Japan and on Guam.
Seoul and Washington are currently conducting their annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise, which will run until Aug. 31.
The North’s IRBM is believed to have a range of about 4,500 kilometers, though the analysis of the range varies slightly between agencies and institutes.
“The missile was fired at 5:57 a.m. from the vicinity of Sunan District in Pyongyang and passed through the skies over Japan,” the JCS said.
This is the first missile launched from the Sunan area, where Pyongyang’s main airport is located. This might be another sign the North has been diversifying its missile launch areas in an apparent effort to avoid surveillance, experts said.
The missile launch came after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un threatened earlier this month to strike waters around Guam with four Hwasong-12 IRBMs. Guam is located about 3,000 kilometers from Pyongyang.
The North Korean missile launched this time flew over Japan’s Hokkaido and landed in the North Pacific Ocean about 1,180 kilometers east of the northern Japanese island, according to officials there.
It is the third North Korean missile to have been fired over Japan after a Taepodong-1 in 1998 and an Unha-2 in 2009.
The JCS official said the North did not use a lofted, high-angle trajectory in its latest launch. Previously, the North fired its missiles at a high angle, claiming it was to exert “no adverse effect on the security of neighboring countries.”
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe denounced the provocation as an “unprecedented and grave threat” to the country’s security.
During a 40-minute phone call, Abe and U.S. President Donald Trump agreed to increase pressure on the North, with Trump saying the U.S. was “100 percent with Japan.”
The South Korean government also condemned the North, calling the launch “reckless provocation.”
Cheong Wa Dae convened a National Security Council session, while President Moon Jae-in ordered the military to demonstrate its capability for “strong retaliation.”
In line with the order, four Republic of Korea Air Force F-15K fighter jets conducted a live-bombing drill aimed at removing the North Korean leadership in the event of war, while the state-run Agency for Defense Development released footage of its recent test-firings of domestically developed ballistic missiles with ranges of 500 and 800 kilometers.
JCS Chairman Gen. Jeong Kyeong-doo spoke on the phone with his U.S. counterpart Gen. Joseph Dunford, during which time the two agreed to take related countermeasures at the earliest possible date. The measures will reportedly include the dispatch of U.S. strategic assets such as heavy bombers.
In its statement, the JCS said the North will face “resolute retaliation” from Seoul and Washington if it continues its provocations.
“North Korea’s launch of a ballistic missile is a clear violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution that poses a serious threat to the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia as well as the world,” said Army Col. Roh Jae-cheon, the JCS spokesman. “It will face resolute retaliation from South Korea and the United States if it carries out additional provocations.”
The JCS said the missile launch was immediately detected by South Korea’s surveillance assets, including an Aegis-equipped destroyer and an early warning radar. The JCS added it is closely monitoring movements of the North Korean military in preparation for additional provocations.
Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha held telephone talks with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, during which the top diplomats of the two nations expressed “deep disappointment” over the North’s move that seemed to reject possible dialogue proposals.
The latest provocation came at a time when the U.S. administration has been seemingly turning positive about talks with the North, with Trump saying last week Kim has begun to “respect” Washington. Tillerson had also said dialogue between the U.S. and North Korea could be possible in the “near future.”
A woman passes by a television screen displaying a map of Japan in Tokyo, Tuesday, following a North Korean launch of a missile that flew over Japan. The North’s latest provocation is seen as a clear message of defiance to Washington and Seoul which are conducting war games.
A Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) soldier takes part in a drill to mobilize their Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missile unit in response to a recent missile launch by North Korea, at the U.S. Air Force’s Yokota Air Base in Fussa near Tokyo, Japan, Tuesday.
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks to reporters at his residence in Tokyo, Tuesday, after North Korea launched a ballistic missile over Japan. Abe said North Korea’s launch of a missile over its territory was an "unprecedented, serious and grave threat.”
F-15K fighter jets drop MK84 multipurpose bombs at a live-fire range near the inter-Korean border in Taebaek in a show of overwhelming force after President Moon Jae-in ordered the military to display its capabilities that can sternly respond to North Korea’s provocations.