North Korea has continued its recent series of missile tests. According to the South Korean military, a medium-range ballistic missile flew in the direction of the Sea of Japan (Korean: East Sea) over the Japanese archipelago on Tuesday (local time), the South Korean news agency Yonhap reported. According to the South Korean military, this is North Korea’s first launch of a medium-range missile in more than eight months.
Accordingly, the rocket was launched in the northern North Korean province of Jagang near the border with China. According to initial estimates, the rocket reached a distance of 4,500 kilometers and a maximum altitude of around 970 kilometers.
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol spoke of a “ruthless” provocation and called for “appropriate measures” to be taken, as reported by Yonhap. Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida called North Korea’s missile test “outrageous”. Cabinet chef Hirokazu Matsuno also spoke of an “imminent threat” to the region and the world community.
Missile alert in northern Japan
It was the first time in almost five years that a North Korean missile has flown over the Japanese archipelago. According to Japanese information, the rocket landed around 3000 kilometers east of Japan in the Pacific Ocean. According to Japan’s Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada, this is North Korea’s furthest horizontal range for a missile.
The launch sparked a rare public missile alert that warned residents of the northern Japanese island of Hokaido and Aomori Prefecture on the northern tip of Japan’s main island of Honshu to take shelter in their homes with warning messages, the Kyodo news agency reported.
UN resolutions prohibit North Korea from testing ballistic missiles of any range, which, depending on the design, can also carry a nuclear warhead. Most recently, North Korea tested two short-range ballistic missiles on Saturday – the fourth missile launch in a week.
Response to US and South Korean maneuvers?
Experts see North Korea’s recent rocket tests as a reaction to the recently held naval maneuvers by South Korean and US forces. The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan also took part in the four-day naval exercises. It was the first deployment of a US aircraft carrier to South Korea in almost four years.
North Korea regularly accuses the United States of preparing an attack through its military maneuvers with South Korea – which both countries deny. Tensions in the region have risen sharply following a series of nuclear-capable missile tests by North Korea this year. The country is also reportedly preparing to launch a submarine ballistic missile and possibly its first nuclear test since 2017.
At the beginning of September, the parliament in North Korea also passed a law on state nuclear policy. Among other things, this provides for the use of nuclear weapons not only in the event of an attack by enemy forces, but also in the event of an impending attack on the leadership in Pyongyang. The country is subject to tough international sanctions because of its nuclear weapons program.