Kyodo News
Back to Main
N. Korea fires missile over Japan amid int'l outcry

North Korea fired a ballistic missile early Tuesday that flew
over Japan's northernmost main island of Hokkaido before falling into
the Pacific Ocean, in defiance of international sanctions and
criticism of Pyongyang's continued nuclear and missile development.

The missile launch came amid ongoing U.S.-South Korea military
exercises on the Korean Peninsula through Thursday which North Korea
has strongly protested against. The North fired three short-range
missiles off its east coast on Saturday.

The launch prompted the leaders of Japan and the United States
to renew their commitment to increasing pressure on North Korea to
discourage it from further provocations.

In a teleconference after the missile launch, Prime Minister
Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Donald Trump agreed the latest launch
makes it clear that now is not the right time for dialogue with North
Korea and that it is necessary to increase pressure, a senior
Japanese official said.

Trump said the United States stands 100 percent behind its ally
Japan, the official added.

The two leaders also shared the view that the roles of China and
Russia are very important, according to the official.

Ahead of talks with Trump, Abe said the missile's crossing Japan
posed "an unprecedented, serious and grave security threat" and
"could significantly undermine peace and stability in the region." He
said Tokyo has lodged a protest with Pyongyang.

Abe said Japan will demand further pressure on North Korea in
cooperation with the international community to address the issue.
Following the latest missile launch, the U.N. Security Council has
started arrangements to hold an emergency meeting at the request of
Japan, South Korea and the United States.

The prime minister also said Japan had been closely monitoring
the missile from its launch and taken full measures to ensure the
safety of the Japanese people.

North Korea last fired a long-range Taepodong-2 missile over the
southwestern island prefecture of Okinawa in February last year,
while a similar one traveled over a main island of the Japanese
archipelago in April 2009.

North Korean's latest missile was launched around 5:58 a.m.
eastward from Sunan in its capital Pyongyang and fell into the sea
1,180 kilometers east of Cape Erimo, the Japanese government said.

It flew more than 2,700 km at a maximum altitude of around 550
km, possibly breaking into three before falling into the sea, it
added.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said there were no
immediate reports of damage to Japanese territory.
Defense Minster Itsunori Onodera told reporters the missile did
not fly on a highly "lofted" trajectory and could be the same type as
intermediate-range missile Hwasong-12, which Pyongyang fired on May
14.

Onodera said the Self-Defense Forces did not intercept the
missile as they judged there was no possibility it would land in
Japan.

Tensions have been running high since North Korea said earlier
this month it is considering launching ballistic missiles over the
Japanese archipelago into waters near the U.S. territory of Guam in
the western Pacific. The warning came after Pyongyang test-fired two
intercontinental ballistic missiles in July.

The defense ministry has deployed Air Self-Defense Force Patriot
Advanced Capability-3 missile interceptors in the western Japan
prefectures of Shimane, Hiroshima and Kochi, over which Pyongyang
said its missiles would fly, as well as Ehime located between
Hiroshima and Kochi. PAC-3 systems are not regularly installed in
those regions.

Foreign Minister Taro Kono said Pyongyang "appeared to have held
back" from firing a missile toward Guam due to fear of U.S.
retaliation, sending it over Hokkaido instead.

Following the missile launch, the Japanese and South Korean
governments held their respective National Security Council meetings
to discuss the issue.

Later Tuesday, Japan's ruling and opposition parties decided to
hold a meeting of a House of Representatives committee on Wednesday
to be attended by defense and foreign ministers, for adoption of a
resolution condemning North Korea's repeated provocative acts,
according to lawmakers.

In Washington, the U.S. Defense Department confirmed that a
North Korean missile flew over Japan. The United States is "still in
the process of assessing this launch," the Pentagon said.

In Japan, the missile launch was announced on the government's
satellite-based J-Alert system, which advised people in the area to
take precautions. Some railway companies from eastern to northern
Japan briefly halted their operations, but there was no influence on
flights to and from New Chitose Airport, a major gateway to Hokkaido.

Yoji Koda, a retired vice admiral of Japan's Maritime
Self-Defense Force, said the choice of flight path seemed to be an
effort by North Korea to lessen the likelihood of retaliation from
the United States.

If a missile were to fall into the sea near Guam, "the U.S.
response would be severe, so it seems (North Korea) has fired it in a
different direction so as not to provoke the United States," he said.

"Rather than a provocation of Japan, (North Korea's) main target
is the United States," he added.

He said information known so far about the missile suggests it
could be a Hwasong-12, the same type North Korea threatened to launch
toward Guam. (Aug. 29)


A TV screen on a street in Tokyo showing news of North Korea's launch of a ballistic missile that flew over Japan before falling into the Pacific Ocean off Hokkaido.