North Korea Said to Fire Another Missile

August 28, 2017


SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea fired a ballistic missile early Tuesday that soared over Japan, the South Korean military said.

It was the second time in four days that the North Korean authorities, defying an escalation in international sanctions and warnings from President Trump, had launched a missile. Three short-range missiles were launched on Saturday.

The missile fired on Tuesday took off from near Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, and flew to the east, according to the South Korean military, which added that officials were analyzing the data to determine what type of missile was launched.

The Japanese government sent a text alert to citizens about the launch and advised them to take protective cover.

The missile flew over Hokkaido island in northern Japan, South Korean and Japanese officials said. It was the first time a North Korean projectile had crossed over Japan since North Korea launched rockets over Japan in 1998, and again in 2009. The North claimed that both rockets were carrying a satellite payload.

In a statement posted on the Twitter account of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the government confirmed that the missile was fired at 5:58 a.m. local time, before breaking into three pieces and landing about 730 miles off the coast Cape Erimo of Hokkaido around 6:12 am.

“We will collect information quickly and take all the measures to protect people’s life,” Mr. Abe said in a brief statement.

A short time later, Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, called the launch “an unprecedented, serious and grave threat to our nation.”

In Washington, the Pentagon said that “we can confirm that the missile launched by North Korea flew over Japan. We are still in the process of assessing this launch. North American Aerospace Defense Command determined the missile launch from North Korea did not pose a threat to North America.”

Earlier this month, North Korea had threatened to launch four of its Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missiles in a “historic enveloping fire” around Guam, home to major American Air Force and Navy bases. The North at the time said the missiles would fly over southern Japanese provinces on their way toward Guam.

That threat, together with Mr. Trump’s warning that the United States would bring down “fire and fury” if the North didn’t stand down, has significantly raised tensions in the region. But the anxiety had appeared to ease somewhat after the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, later said he would wait a while, watching the United States behavior, before deciding whether to approve his military’s plan to launch missiles toward Guam.

But the missile tests on Saturday dampened hopes in Seoul and Washington that North Korea would restrain from weapons tests to help pave the way for possible dialogue.

North Korea has conducted more than 80 missile tests since Mr. Kim came to power in late 2011, after the death of his father, but it has never sent any of those missiles over Japan.

Even when it flight-tested an intercontinental ballistic missile on July 28, it was launched at a highly lofted angle so that the missile reached an altitude of 2,300 miles but only flew 998 horizontal miles, falling in waters between the North and Japan. The North said at the time that it did so in order not to send its missile over a neighbor. Thus, the missile test on Tuesday was considered an especially bold move.

Along with South Korea, Japan and Guam would likely be the first targets of a North Korean attack should war break out on the Korean Peninsula, analysts said. Both are home to major American military bases, which will become key launching pads for American forces in the event of war in Korea.

Last week, American and South Korean forces began twice-yearly war games aimed at preparing for a possible attack by the North. The games continue until the end of August. North Korea has long called the exercise a provocation and a rehearsal for an invasion. The Kim government has previously responded with missile or other weapons tests.

Rick Gladstone contributed reporting from New York.




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