North Korea fires ballistic missile over Japan, tensions escalate
Japan woke up to a tense picture as North Korea reportedly fired a suspected intermediate-range ballistic missile over the island nation on Tuesday. Said to be part of a test, reports show it was North Korea's longest-range missile yet. The reported move has heightened tensions as North Korea's weapon system tests are designed to target regional US allies. Here's all you need to know.
Why does this story matter?
- This test marks the first time in five years that a North Korean ballistic missile has flown over Japan.
- It's also the most notable test since January when its Hwasong-12 missile—capable of reaching the US's Guam—was fired.
- Over the last 10 days, North Korea conducted five weapon test rounds, seen as a response to the US, South Korea, and Japan's recent trilateral training drills.
Japanese government issues alert
BBC reported North Korea's early morning missile launch triggered a warning from Japanese officials. People were asked to take cover, and train services were suspended. Japan's government issued a rare alert at 7:29 am (local time), saying, "North Korea appears to have launched a missile. Please evacuate into buildings or underground." Notably, the United Nations (UN) has prohibited North Korea from such missile tests.
Watch: Sirens go off in Japan
JUST IN - North Korea fired a ballistic missile that flew over Japan. Missile alerts have been activated.pic.twitter.com/OvnoE1TWXL— Disclose.tv (@disclosetv) October 3, 2022
Residents asked to vacate, go underground
Per AP, Japanese officials issued a "J-alert" for residents in northeastern regions, urging them to evacuate or go underground. Train services were suspended in Hokkaido and Aomori. Operations resumed after the missile landed in the Pacific ocean. "The firing...is a reckless act, and I strongly condemn it," Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said. He will be convening a National Security Council meeting on Tuesday.
Here's more about the missile
Japanese officials say the missile fell about 3,000 km from Japan in the Pacific Ocean. The launch goes against international norms: countries cannot fly missiles over other countries without pre-warning. Flying a ballistic missile over Japan reportedly allows North Korea to practice for real-world use, which is a dangerous precedent. The launch may reportedly have been designed to get the US and Japan's attention.
Fifth launch by North Korea in over a week
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has lately been ignored, BBC noted. This is the North's fifth launch carried out in over a week. On Saturday, two rockets reportedly fell in waters outside Japan's economic zone. North Korea recently passed a law declaring itself a nuclear weapons state, ruling out the possibility of denuclearization talks. About 40 missiles have been tested this year, AP said.
Possible reasons behind the escalation?
The North's tests may be a response to the US and South Korea's bilateral military exercises and other drills involving Japan last week. Pyongyang reportedly sees them as "invasion" rehearsals. It may also be Kim's attempt to expand his nuclear arsenal and apply pressure on the US to accept North Korea as a nuclear state in order to lift international sanctions against his country.