North Korea tests missile over Japan, which urges northerners to protect themselves | World

North Korea fired a missile that flew over Japan in what appears to be a deliberate escalation to get the attention of the governments of Tokyo and Washington.

The ballistic missile traveled about 4,500 km before crashing into the Pacific Ocean — enough distance to hit the US island of Guam if it followed another trajectory.

This is the first North Korean missile launch over Japan since 2017.

The launch prompted Japan to issue a rare warning for some citizens to protect themselves.

The UN forbids the North Korea to test ballistic and nuclear weapons. Launching missiles towards or over other countries without any prior notice or consultation also violates international norms.

Most countries avoid doing this altogether, as the act can easily be mistaken for an attack. While not as big as a nuclear test — something that is not ruled out for the future — the North Korean act can be considered extremely provocative.

People in northern Japan, including the island of Hokkaido and the city of Aomori, reportedly woke up to sirens and text alerts that said “North Korea appears to have launched a missile. Please evacuate to buildings or to underground locations”.

As the missile flew overhead, they were warned to watch out for falling debris. Many appeared to remain calm, according to reports. A video shows commuters from Tokyo walking calmly as loudspeakers blared alerts.

But others were more shaken. “If a missile hits, I would be worried that this would be a big problem not only here, but also across the country,” Kazuko Ebina, a resident of Aomori, told the Asahi Shimbun newspaper.

Later, officials said the intermediate-range ballistic missile landed in the Pacific Ocean, far from Japan, and there were no reports of injuries.

It covered the longest distance ever traveled by a North Korean missile and reached a height of about 1,000 km — higher than the International Space Station.

Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida called the launch “violent behavior”, while Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said Japan did not rule out any options to strengthen its defenses, including “counter-attack capabilities”. .

US National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson called the decision “dangerous and reckless” and said the act “destabilizes” the region.

The launch comes as Japan, the US and South Korea work together to strengthen their defenses in response to the growing threat posed by the North.

Last week, the three countries held naval exercises together for the first time since 2017. Those exercises have long antagonized Pyongyang leader Kim Jong-un, who sees them as proof that his enemies are preparing for war.

After the combined exercises in 2017, North Korea fired two missiles at Japan in response. A week later, it carried out a nuclear test.

Recent intelligence suggested that North Korea is preparing to test another nuclear weapon. North Korea is believed to be waiting until China – its main ally – holds its Communist Party congress later this month.

But some experts are now asking whether that could happen sooner than expected — they believe Tuesday’s launch shows North Korea is laying the groundwork for a nuclear test.

The missile launch is the fifth carried out by Pyongyang in a week. On Saturday, two rockets landed in waters outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone.

Many of North Korea’s missile tests are carried out on an elevated flight path — avoiding flights over its neighbors.

However, firing at or passing through Japan allows North Korean scientists to test missiles in circumstances “more representative of the conditions they would endure in the real world”, analyst Ankit Panda told Reuters news agency.

These actions contributed to enduring tensions between North Korea and Japan, rooted in Japan’s earlier colonization of Korea from 1910 to 1945 and the North’s abduction of Japanese citizens in the past.

Earlier this month, North Korea passed a law declaring itself a nuclear-armed state, with leader Kim Jong-un ruling out the possibility of negotiations on denuclearization.

Pyongyang carried out six nuclear tests between 2006 and 2017, incurring widespread sanctions.

The East Asian country regularly defies a ban on nuclear and missile tests, saying it needs to beef up its defenses.

See the missiles that North Korea has, in addition to the Hwasong-17:

What missiles does North Korea have — Photo: BBC

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