North Korea missile launch triggers evacuation warnings in Japan
Seoul and Tokyo
North Korea fired at least one unidentified ballistic missile on Thursday local time, according to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), who said it landed in waters off the east of the peninsula.
The launch triggered warnings in Japan’s northern Miyagi, Yamagata and Niigata prefectures.
“Missile launched. Missile launched. A missile is believed to have been launched from North Korea. Please evacuate to a building or underground,” the Japanese Prime Minister’s office tweeted.
That tweet was followed by another one several minutes later saying, “Missile passed. Missile passed. The missile is believed to have passed into the Pacific Ocean at approximately 7:48 am. If you see anything suspicious, please do not approach it and contact the police or fire department immediately.”
Japan’s Prime Minister’s office initially said it had flown over the island but after analysis Japan’s Defense Ministry said it did not.
The launch takes the count of North Korean missile launches to 30 this year, including both ballistic and cruise missiles. It comes hours before US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is due to meet his South Korean counterpart Lee Jong-sup at the Pentagon.
Thursday’s launch also follows a barrage of missiles that North Korea fired earlier in the week after sounding angry warnings about large-scale joint military exercises involving the United States and South Korea named “Vigilant Storm.” The maneuvers, which began Monday, involve 240 aircraft and “thousands of service members” from both countries, according to the US Defense Department.
On Wednesday, North Korea launched at least 23 short-range missiles of varying types to the east and west of the Korean Peninsula, according to the South Korean Defense Ministry.
It was highest number of North Korean short-range missiles fired in a single day, and included a ballistic missile that landed close to South Korean territorial waters for the first time since the division of Korea, according to the JCS.
That missile hit international waters 167 kilometers (104 miles) northwest of South Korea’s Ulleung island, about 26 kilometers south of the Northern Limit Line (NLL) – the de facto inter-Korean maritime border that North Korea does not recognize.
Seoul responded at the time by launching three air-to-surface missiles from F-15K and KF-16 fighter jets, targeting an area the same distance north of the NLL.
North Korea is launching missiles at an “unprecedentedly high frequency,” Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters on Wednesday.
US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield condemned North Korea’s unprecedented missile launch, telling CNN that the UN would be “putting pressure” on China and Russia to improve and enhance such sanctions.