North Korea in another controversial move has reportedly fired a ballistic missile over Japan for the first time in about five years which has also prompting Tokyo to activate its missile alert system and issue a rare warning for residents to take shelter.
The latest launch which the United States has branded as “reckless and dangerous” — comes in a record year of sanctions-busting weapons tests by North Korea, which had recently revised its laws to declare itself an “irreversible” nuclear power.
The last time that the Pyongyang fired a missile over Japan was in 2017, at the height of a period of “fire and fury” when North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had also traded insults with the United States President Donald Trump.
South Korea had also reported that the intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) had flown some 4,500 kilometres (2,800 miles) — possibly a new distance record for North Korean tests, which had been conducted on a lofted trajectory to avoid flying over neighbouring countries.
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol had also called the launch a “provocation” which had violated some United Nations regulations and vowed a “stern response” in a statement issued by his office.
Later Tuesday, South Korean and US fighter jets carried out a “precision bombing drill” in response, Seoul’s military said, with South Korean F-15Ks dropping joint direct attack munitions (JDAMs) at a target in the Yellow Sea.
The drills aimed to demonstrate the allies’ “capabilities to conduct a precision strike at the origin of provocations,” South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida described Pyongyang’s latest test as “an act of violence”, while European Union head Charles Michel called it “an unjustified aggression”.
The US State Department said the “reckless and dangerous launch” posed “an unacceptable threat to the Japanese public”.
Japanese Defence Minister Yasukazu Hamada said the missile could have been a Hwasong-12.