By HYUNG-JIN KIM, KIM TONG-HYUNG and MARI YAMAGUCHI
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea fired an intermediate-range ballistic missile over Japan on Tuesday, its neighbors said, stepping up testing of weapons designed to hit key targets in regional allies in the United States. United States.
It is North Korea’s most significant missile test since January, when it fired the Hwasong-12 intermediate-range missile capable of reaching the US territory of Guam. It is also the first time a North Korean missile has flown over Japan since 2017.
The Japanese prime minister’s office said at least one missile fired from North Korea flew over Japan and landed in the Pacific Ocean.
Japanese authorities have issued a “J-alert” to residents of northeastern areas to evacuate to nearby buildings, the first such alert since 2017. Trains have been temporarily suspended in Japanese areas of Hokkaido and Aomori before their operations resumed after a government announced that the North Korean missile appeared to have landed in the Pacific.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters that “the shooting, which followed a recent spate of fire by North Korea, is a reckless act and I strongly condemn it.” He said he would convene a National Security Council to discuss the situation.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said no damage was reported immediately after the North launched the missile. He said the missile landed in waters outside the country’s exclusive economic zone after a 22-minute flight.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said they also detected the launch of what they called a ballistic missile fired from the northern interior area of the North. He said the South Korean military is strengthening its surveillance posture and remains ready in close coordination with the United States.
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said North Korea launched an intermediate-range missile with a range of 4,000 kilometers (2,485 miles). It’s a beach that puts Guam within striking distance.
Yoon said he had called a meeting of the National Security Council to discuss the launch and that “reckless nuclear provocations” from the North would be met with harsh response from the South and the wider international community.
The launch is the fifth round of weapons tests by North Korea in the past 10 days in what was seen as an apparent response to bilateral military exercises between South Korea and the United States and other Allied training involving Japan last week. North Korea sees these exercises as a rehearsal for an invasion,
The missiles fired in the last four rounds of launches were short-range and fell in waters between the Korean peninsula and Japan. These missiles are capable of hitting targets in South Korea.
North Korea has tested around 40 missiles in about 20 different launch events this year as its leader Kim Jong Un vows to expand its nuclear arsenal and refuses to return to nuclear diplomacy with the United States.
Some experts say Kim would eventually try to use his expanded arsenal to pressure Washington to accept his country as a nuclear state, a recognition he thinks is necessary to get international sanctions lifted and other concessions.