North Korea fired a missile early on Friday that flew over Japan’s northern Hokkaido far out into the Pacific Ocean, South Korean and Japanese officials said, further ratcheting up tensions after Pyongyang’s recent test of a powerful nuclear bomb.
The missile flew over Japan, landing in the Pacific about 2,000 kilometres east of Hokkaido, Japan Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters in a hastily organized media conference.
Warning announcements about the missile blared around 7 a.m. local time in the town of Kamaishi in northern Japan, footage from national broadcaster NHK showed.
“These repeated provocations on the part of North Korea are unpermissible and we protest in the strongest words,” Suga said.
The unidentified missile reached an altitude of about 770 kilometres and flew for about 19 minutes over a distance of 3,700 kilometres, according to South Korea’s military — far enough to reach the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam.
U.S. Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said the missile launch had “put millions of Japanese into duck and cover” before it landed in the Pacific Ocean.
The U.S. military said soon after the launch it had detected a single intermediate-range ballistic missile, but that it did not pose a threat to North America or the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam, toward which Pyongyang had previously threatened to launch a missile.
U.S. officials said Washington’s commitments to the defence of its allies remained “ironclad.”
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called “on all nations to take new measures against the Kim regime,” calling out China and Russia to take “direct actions of their own.”
The United Nations Security Council will meet at 3 p.m. ET on Friday to discuss the latest test.
Last month, North Korea fired a missile from a similar area near the capital Pyongyang that also flew over Hokkaido into the ocean.
South Korea said it had test-fired a missile into the sea to coincide with North Korea’s launch. The presidential Blue House has called an urgent National Security Council meeting. Japan also convened a National Security Council meeting.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in said the launch will only result in further diplomatic and economic isolation for the North, and officials said Moon had also warned of possible new threats.
The North’s launch comes a day after the North threatened to sink Japan and reduce the United States to “ashes and darkness” for supporting a UN Security Council resolution imposing new sanctions against it for its Sept. 3 nuclear test, its most powerful by far.
The North accuses the United States, which has 28,500 troops in South Korea, of planning to invade. North Korea regularly threatens to destroy the U.S. and its Asian allies.
Australia, a strong and vocal ally of the United States, quickly condemned the launch.
‘The sanctions are working’
“This is another dangerous, reckless, criminal act by the North Korean regime, threatening the stability of the region and the world and we condemn it, utterly,” Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said in an interview with Sky News on Friday.
“This is a sign, I believe, of their frustration at the increased sanctions on North Korea, recently imposed by the Security Council. It’s a sign that the sanctions are working.”
The United Nations Security Council voted unanimously on a U.S.-drafted resolution and a new round of sanctions on Monday, banning North Korea’s textile exports and capping fuel supplies.
The U.S. dollar fell sharply against the safe-haven yen and Swiss franc in early Asian hours in response to the launch, though losses were quickly pared in very jittery trade.
U.S. President Donald Trump has vowed that North Korea will never be allowed to threaten the United States with a nuclear-tipped missile, but has also asked China to do more to rein in its neighbour. China in turn favours an international response to the problem.
The White House said Trump has been briefed about North Korea’s latest launch by chief of staff John Kelly.
The United States and South Korea are technically still at war with North Korea because the 1950-53 Korean conflict ended with a truce and not a peace treaty.
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