North Korea launched a ballistic missile today (Tuesday, August 29) that flew over Japan and landed in the Pacific Ocean.
The missile – believed to be a Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) – was fired from North Korea shortly before dawn.
It travelled about 1,700 miles and reached a maximum altitude of 340 miles, before splashing into the sea about 620 miles east of Hokkaido island at 6.12am.
Japan’s chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga described the firing as an “unprecedented, serious and grave threat to our nation”.
Experts believe the move could be in response to recent joint military exercises between the US and Japan in Hokkaido, and the US and South Korea on the Korean Peninsula.
There is also speculation that North Korea was testing whether its IRBM could carry nuclear warheads. Such a test would require the missile to be fired over a long distance rather than vertically upwards, as with previous tests.
It is not known why the missile was not intercepted by US or Japanese missile destroyers along its path.
Fire and fury
On August 10, North Korea declared plans to fire four Hwasong-12 IRBMs over Japan into the waters surrounding Guam.
The announcement came shortly after Donald Trump threatened Pyongyang with “fire and fury like the world has never seen” should it threaten any US territory.
Today, the Philippines urged North Korea to stop its missile launches.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said: “We call on the DPRK to halt these dangerous and provocative actions, which heighten tensions, increase instability and the risk of miscalculation, and could possibly endanger lives.
“ASEAN and the Philippines, as this year’s chair, remain committed to peaceful resolutions of conflict.
“While we are ready to do our part, provocations such as this latest missile launch should stop to help us put in place an environment that would be conducive for dialogue.”
Cayetano said he has instructed the Philippine Embassy in Tokyo to continue to closely monitor the situation and to ensure that the estimated 242,000 Filipinos living and working in Japan were safe.
“I wish to assure our kababayans in Japan that our Embassy in Tokyo and our Consulate General in Osaka are prepared to assist them should it be necessary,” he added.
Russian foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov said today that he was “extremely worried” about the situation.
“We see a tendency towards an escalation … and we are extremely concerned by the general developments,” he said.
China has urged all countries involved in the nuclear standoff on the Korean Peninsula to show restraint and end a “malicious cycle” of escalating tensions.
Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said increased military pressure from the United States and South Korea has prompted North Korea to respond with more missile tests, which in turn triggered more military pressure on the North.
She said “time has proven that pressure and sanctions cannot solve the root of the problem”.
China has proposed that the U.S. and South Korea halt regular joint military exercises, and in return North Korea would freeze its development of nuclear weapons while the two sides hold talks.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump has reiterated that “all options are on the table” after the latest missile launch.
In a written statement he said that “threatening and destabilizing actions” only increased North Korea’s isolation in the world.
He also said North Korea’s actions showed “contempt for its neighbours”.