North Korea fires missile over Japan

North Korea fires missile over Japan

A pedestrian in Tokyo looks at a TV screen displaying a map showing the route of a North Korean missile over Japan AFP/Kazuhiro NOGI

SEOUL: North Korea fired a missile on Friday (Sep 15) 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 2,000km east of Hokkaido, Japan Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters in a hastily organised media conference.

Japanese media reports said the country's J-Alert system advised those living below the missile's flight path in Hokkaido to seek shelter, and that there were no reports of damage from falling debris. 

"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 3,700 kilometres, according to South Korea's military - far enough to reach the US Pacific territory of Guam.

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 fired a missile test 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. 

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 Sep 3 nuclear test.

The North accuses the United States, which has 28,500 troops in South Korea, of planning to invade and regularly threatens to destroy it and its Asian allies.

Australia, a strong and vocal ally of the United States, quickly condemned the launch.

"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 US-drafted resolution and a new round of sanctions on Monday, banning North Korea's textile exports and capping fuel supplies.

The US 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.

US 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.

"Initial assessment indicates the launch of an intermediate range ballistic missile (IRBM)," the US Pacific Command said in a statement.

"The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) determined this ballistic missile did not pose a threat to North America," it said. "US Pacific Command determined this ballistic missile did not pose a threat to Guam."

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.

Source: Reuters/de/nc

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