North Korea fires ballistic missile over Japan

North Korea has fired a ballistic missile over Japan in what appears to be a deliberate escalation to get the attention of Tokyo and Washington.

The missile travelled 4,500km (2,800 miles) before falling into the Pacific Ocean – far enough to hit the US island of Guam if it took another trajectory.

It is the first North Korean missile launch over Japan since 2017.

Japan issued an alert to some citizens to take cover. The US and South Korea responded with joint bombing drills.

The South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said four aircraft from each side had taken part in the exercise, firing at a mock target on an uninhabited island in the Yellow Sea.

A statement said the drill demonstrated Seoul and Washington’s will to respond sternly to the threat from Pyongyang.

The United Nations (UN) prohibits North Korea from testing ballistic and nuclear weapons. Flying missiles towards or over other countries without any pre-warning or consultation also contravenes international norms.

Most countries avoid doing it completely as it can easily be mistaken for an attack. While it is not as big as a nuclear test – which could be next – it can be considered hugely provocative.

People in the north of Japan, including Hokkaido Island and Aomori city, reportedly woke up to the noise of sirens and text alerts which read: “North Korea appears to have launched a missile. Please evacuate into buildings or underground”.

As the missile flew overhead, they were warned to look out for falling debris. Many appeared to remain calm according to reports, with one video showing Tokyo commuters walking calmly as loudspeakers blared out warnings.

But others were more shaken. “If a missile hit, I was worried it would be a big problem not only here but also nationwide,” Aomori resident, Kazuko Ebina, told the Asahi Shimbun newspaper.

Officials later said the intermediate-range ballistic missile fell into the Pacific Ocean far from Japan, and there were no reported injuries.

It had covered the longest distance ever travelled by a North Korean missile, and reached a height of around 1,000km – higher than the International Space Station. -BBC

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