By: Foster Klug, Kim Tong-Hyung
SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea fired a ballistic missile from its capital Pyongyang that flew over Japan before plunging into the northern Pacific Ocean, officials said Tuesday, an aggressive test-flight over the territory of a close U.S. ally that sends a clear message of defiance as Washington and Seoul conduct war games nearby.
Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the missile traveled around 2,700 kilometers (1677 miles) and reached a maximum height of 550 kilometers (341 miles) as it flew over the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. The launch, which appears to be the first to cross over Japan since 2009, will rattle a region worried that each new missile test puts the North a step closer toward its goal of an arsenal of nuclear missiles that can reliably target the United States.
North Korean missile launches have been happening at an unusually fast pace this year, and some analysts believe that the North could have such an arsenal before the end of U.S. President Donald Trump’s first term in early 2021.
The JCS said it is analyzing the launch with the United States and also that South Korea’s military has strengthened its monitoring and preparation in case of further actions from North Korea. South Korea’s military says the missile was launched from Sunan, which is where Pyongyang’s international airport is, opening the possibility that North Korea launched a road mobile missile from an airport runway.
Tokyo called Tuesday’s test a “grave threat.” Japanese officials said there was no damage to ships or anything else reported. Japan’s NHK TV said the missile separated into three parts. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters, “We will do our utmost to protect people’s lives.”
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