North Korea fired a missile that flew over Japan and landed in waters off the northern region of Hokkaido early on Tuesday, marking a sharp escalation of tensions on the Korean peninsula according to Reuters. The missile test, which experts said was an intermediate-range Hwasong 12 missile, came as U.S. and South Korean forces conduct an annual military drill, against which North Korea strenuously objects.
South Korea’s military said the missile was launched from the Sunan region near Pyongyang at 5:57 a.m. local time and flew 2,700 km (1,680 miles), reaching an altitude of about 550 km (340 miles). Japanese's NHK broadcaster reported the missile broke into three pieces and fell into waters off Hokkaido.
According to North Korea's Mun-hwan, the launch of the mid-range ballistic missile (IRBM) is intended to show that an attack on Guam is possible at any time (see map below), Yonhap reported.
Where the North Korean missile landed vs where Guam: Yonhap
“North Korea’s reckless action is an unprecedented, serious and grave threat to our nation,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters. Abe said Japan was seeking an urgent meeting at the United Nations to strengthen measures against Pyongyang as the test was a clear violation of UN resolutions and the government had protested against the move in the strongest terms.
Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the latest North Korean missile fell into the sea 1,180 km (735 miles) east of the Cape of Erimo on Hokkaido. He said that the Japanese military did not attempt to shoot down the missile, which passed over Japanese territory around 6:07 a.m. local time (2107 GMT).
"We are still in the process of assessing this launch. North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) determined the missile launch from North Korea did not pose a threat to North America," Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Rob Manning said in a statement.
The last time North Korea fired what it said was a rocket carrying a communications satellite into orbit over Japan in 2009, however the US and other nations at the time said the launch was a ballistic missile test.
Shortly after the launch, The Japanese government’s J-Alert system broke into radio and TV programming, warning citizens of the possible missile and urging them to take refuge in solid buildings or underground shelters. Bullet train services were temporarily halted and warnings went out over loudspeakers in towns in Hokkaido.
South Korea's presidential office Cheong Wa Dae immediately convened a National Security Council (NSC) session to discuss the issue according to Yonhap. Chung Eui-yong, head of the National Security Office and top security adviser to President Moon Jae-in, chaired the emergency meeting, according to Cheong Wa Dae.
As Yonhap notes, "the North's provocation is another slap in the face to Moon and U.S. President Donald Trump as they have sought to resume dialogue, and could bring tensions on the peninsula to a new high."
Last weekend, the North launched three projectiles that the allies determined were short-range ballistic missiles. The latest missile launches marked an end to a monthlong hiatus in the Kim Jong-un regime's provocations, which U.S. officials described as "restraint."
Trump said last week the North's leader "is starting to respect us" although that appears now not to have been the case.
On Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also said despite the North's firing of three short range missiles, "We're going to continue our peaceful pressure campaign, as I have described it, working with allies and working with China as well to see if we can bring the regime in Pyongyang to the negotiating table with a view to begin a dialogue on a different future for the Korean Peninsula and for North Korea."
Meanwhile, the South Korean and U.S. militaries are presently carrying out their annual combined drills on the peninsula.
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Update 2: S.KOREA MILITARY IS RAISING ALERT AFTER N.KOREA MISSILE: YONHAP
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Update: Japan PM Abe, speaking to reporters in Tokyo after the launch, said North Korea appears to have fired a missile that flew over Japan. According to subsequent reports as many as three separate ballistic missiles may have been launched.
"It seems that DPRK missile passed over our airspace," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said adding that the government was urgently collecting intelligence on the incident and doing everything to ensure the safety of its citizens.
Abe's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga adds that the missile flying over Japan is a "new, serious development" and called it an "unprecedented, grave threat."
- JAPAN CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: JAPAN TO TAKE APPROPRIATE STEPS AS NEEDED REGARDING NORTH KOREA MISSILE
- JAPAN'S SUGA:NORTH KOREA BALLISTIC MISSILE AN UNPRECEDENTED, GRAVE THREAT
NHK, Japan's national public broadcasting organization, reported the Japanese government issued a warning to people living in northern prefectures to take cover near strong structures after reports of the launch. It also added that multiple missiles were fired by North Korea. Finally, NHK notes that the missile appears to have broken up into 3 parts.
Citing government sources, NHK reports that the missile likely landed off eastern coast of Hokkaido.
The North Korea missile reportedly passed over Hokkaido around 6:06am JST.
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Three days after North Korea launched three short-range ballisitic missiles, a move which as we discussed last night was met virtually without any response by the US administration and which we said would embolden North Korea to proceed with further provocations, Kim Jong Un has done just that and moments ago Yonhap reported that North Korea has fired another missile.
- N.KOREA FIRED UNIDENTIFIED PROJECTILE FROM PYONGYANG: S.KOREA
- N.KOREA PROJECTILE FIRED FROM REGION NEAR PYONGYANG - YONHAP
- N.KOREA FIRES PROJECTILE INTO SEA OFF EAST COAST - YONHAP CITING S.KOREA MILITARY
Yonhap also adds that the projectile was fired into the East Sea.
According to Japan's NHK, the Japanese government warns that the North Korea missile is headed toward Northern Japan:
- JAPAN GOVT WARNS PEOPLE IN NORTHERN JAPAN TO TAKE PRECAUTIONS AGAIN POSSIBLE NORTH KOREA MISSILE - NHK
Shortly after the launch, the Japanese government urged citizens to take refuge in solid buildings or underground shelters.
The North Korea missile passed over Hokkaido around 6:06am JST, according to NHK, while the South Korean military confirms North Korean ballistic missile flew over Japan.
The USDJPY is tumbling on the news...
The S&P is lower, and Gold higher...
And VIX is surging:
... Although the latest update from NHK is that contrary to initial reports, the missile has passed over Japan, reportedly over Hokkaido:
- NORTH KOREA MISSILE HAS PASSED OVER JAPAN - NHK
NHK also adds that Japan did not attempt to shoot down the missile:
- JAPAN DIDN'T ATTEMPT TO SHOOT DOWN MISSILE: JAPAN GOVT VIA NHK
Unconfirmed reports state that the launch was from a submarine:
Reports of Submarine launch by North Korea— InsideNK (@inside_nk) August 28, 2017
If the Japanese report is accurate, and a N.Korean missile indeed flew over Japan, it will be seen as a substantial escalation in hostilities and will most likely merit a response.