N. Korea launches new ICBM over Japan
Pyongyang threatens to sink major islands
SEOUL — North Korea fired another missile over the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido on Friday morning, just a day after Pyongyang said that Japan “should be sunken into the sea” with a nuclear bomb and that the United States should be “beaten to death” with a stick “fit for a rabid dog.”
This was the second time in less than three weeks that North Korea sent a ballistic missile over Japan, and the launch came less than two weeks after North Korea exploded what is widely believed to be a hydrogen bomb.
The latest launch immediately sparked angry reactions from Tokyo and Seoul. Secretary of
State Rex Tillerson said the international community had to unite to punish Kim Jong Un’s regime, calling this week’s U.N. Security Council sanctions “the floor, not the ceiling.”
“China supplies North Korea with most of its oil. Russia is the largest employer of North Korean forced labor,” Tillerson said in a statement, singling out the two veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council, who are also the closest thing to allies that North Korea has.
“China and Russia must indicate
their intolerance for these reckless missile launches by taking direct actions of their own,” he said.
The missile was launched from the Sunan airfield just north of Pyongyang about 6:30 a.m. local time, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said. It flew 2,300 miles over 17 minutes, passing over Hokkaido and landing some 1,200 miles to the east in the Pacific Ocean.
The launch immediately triggered emergency alerts in Japan, with text messages and loudspeakers telling residents beneath the missile’s potential flight path to seek shelter.
The Japanese government warned people not to approach any debris or other suspicious-looking material, a reflection of the fact that North Korean missiles sometimes break up in flight.
Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, condemned the latest launch in “the strongest terms possible” and reiterated that Japan would “not tolerate” North Korea’s actions. But Japan did not try to shoot down the missile.
South Korea, however, immediately fired one of its Hyunmoo-ii missiles 155 miles into the sea — the same distance it would have had to travel to reach the Sunan airfield.
In Washington, the White House said President Donald Trump was briefed on the latest North Korean missile launch by his chief of staff, John Kelly.
The missile did not pose a threat to North America or to the U.S. territory of Guam, the U.S. Pacific Command said. The Pacific island of Guam is home to large Air Force and Navy bases and was the target of North Korea’s recent rhetorical threats.
“We continue to monitor North Korea’s actions closely,” the Pacific Command said in a statement.
Friday’s launch appeared similar to the previous launch, on Aug.
29. On that day, North Korea fired a Hwasong-12 — an intermediate-range ballistic missile technically capable of flying 3,000 miles, enough to reach Guam — from the Sunan airfield. But it also flew to the east, over Hokkaido and into the Pacific Ocean, rather than on a southward path toward Guam.
Analysts said that after testing its missiles by firing them straight up and having them crash into the sea between the Korean Peninsula and Japan, North Korea was apparently testing its missiles’ flight on a normal trajectory without crossing a “red line” of aiming at the United States.
On Thursday, a North Korean state agency had issued an alarming threat to what it offensively called the “wicked Japs.”
“The four islands of the (Japanese) archipelago should be sunken into the sea by (our) nuclear bomb,” a spokesman for the Korea Asia-pacific Peace Committee said in a statement carried by the official news agency. Hokkaido is the northernmost of Japan’s four main islands.
“Japan is no longer needed to exist near us,” the committee spokesman said.
This is the first missile launch since North Korea conducted a huge nuclear test Sept. 3, which analysts say appeared to live up to Pyongyang’s claim that the device that was exploded was a hydrogen bomb, exponentially more powerful than a normal atomic device.
That test, combined with the rapid pace of missile launches and North Korea’s stated goal of wanting to be able to strike the mainland United States with a nuclear-tipped missile, has caused alarm around the world.