SEOUL – North Korea fired a missile on Friday (Sept 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.
It was the 15th missile test by North Korea this year and the first since North Korea detonated its sixth and most powerful nuclear bomb to date on Sept. 3. Officials are still analysing the flight data to determine what type of missile was launched.
The missile flew over Japan, landing in the Pacific about 2,000 km east of Hokkaido, Japan Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters in a hastily organised media conference.
“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 km and flew 3,700 km, according to South Korea’s military – far enough to reach the US Pacific territory of Guam and further than the Hwasong-12 missile it flew over Japan last month.
South Korea said it had fired a missile test into the sea to coincide with North Korea’s launch.
Last month (Aug), North Korea fired the intermediate range Hwasong-12 missile from Sunan near the capital Pyongyang. It was also launched in the morning, at 5.58 a.m. local time in Japan, flew over Hokkaido and splashed down in the Pacific Ocean, some 1,180 km off the Hokkaido coast, at 6:12 a.m. That ballistic missile reached an apogee of 550 kilometers.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said the Aug 29 firing was “meaningful prelude” to containing the US Pacific island territory of Guam and the start of more ballistic missile launches targeting the Pacific Ocean.
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 Sept 3 nuclear test.
Meanwhile, the US general who oversees America’s nuclear forces said on Thursday he was making the assumption that North Korea did in fact test a hydrogen bomb on Sept 3, crossing a key threshold in its weapons development efforts.
Although Pyongyang immediately claimed it successfully tested a hydrogen bomb, the United States had previously declined to characterise it.