. In a first, North Korea on Tuesday fired a mid-range ballistic missile over Japan, further escalating tensions with the United States and its allies over the reclusive nation’s nuclear and missile programme.
The Pentagon confirmed the missile launch, saying it is still being assessed.
“North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) determined the missile launch from North Korea did not pose a threat to North America,” a Pentagon statement said.
South Korea said the North has twice fired rockets it said were carrying satellites over Japan — in 1998 and 2009 — but it is the first time it has fired a ballistic missile over the island nation, the Associated Press reported.
The Japanese government issued an immediate rebuke. At one point, residents in several prefectures in northern regions of Japan were told to take cover.
“We will make utmost efforts to firmly protect the lives of the people,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters in brief remarks as he entered emergency meetings on the missile firing.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the missile traveled around 1,700 miles and reached a maximum height of 341 miles as it flew over the norther. Japanese island of Hokkaido.
South Korea’s National Intelligence Service told lawmakers that the missile was launched from an airfield at Pyongyang’s international airport, according to the AP.
Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga described the test as an “unprecedented, grave threat”.
The South Korean government said in a statement that it “condemns in the strongest terms this provocation.” It said if the nuclear and missile provocations continue, it will respond strongly based on a “stalwart” alliance with the United States.
South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha discussed in a phone call with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson how to respond to the missile launch, South Korea’s foreign ministry said.
They agreed to “sternly” take action at the U.N. Security Council, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.
“The two also agreed to maintain close communication at every possible level by using such occasions including the upcoming U.N. General Assembly scheduled for September,” the foreign ministry said, according to Yonhap.
South Korea released footage Tuesday of a missile test it conducted last week in response to the North’s launch.
The launch comes amid a growing confrontation between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Trump.
The South’s National Intelligence Service told lawmakers it was unclear whether the missile’s warhead survived atmospheric re-entry, the AP reported. The spy agency also said Kim’s third child was born in February, without providing further details, according to the AP.
The latest launch comes days after North Korea fired three short-range ballistic missiles into the sea and a month after its second flight test of an intercontinental ballistic missile, which analysts say could reach deep into the U.S. mainland when perfected.
North Korea has also threatened to fire missiles off the coast of Guam, a U.S. territory in the western Pacific. Trump said North Korea would be met with “fire and fury” if it didn’t back off its threats. None of the recent missile launches appeared to be aimed toward Guam.
This month U.S. and South Korean forces went ahead with their annual joint military exercises intended to practice for a possible attack from North Korea, which assailed the training as being provocative.
Under Kim, North Korea has accelerated development of nuclear weapons and missiles of capable of carrying them. Its stated aim is to develop weapons that could reach the U.S. mainland to deter an attack by American forces.
The United Nations has repeatedly condemned North Korea’s weapons programs and imposed a series of ever-tightening economic sanctions that the reclusive nation has found ways to evade.
Trump has urged China to play a more active role in persuading Kim to halt his weapons programs since China is North Korea’s closest political ally and economic benefactor.
China has pledged to try to restrain North Korea’s tests but also appealed to Trump to lower his aggressive rhetoric.
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