Thursday 26 April 2018

Fury after North Korea fires missile over Japan

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks to reporters in Tokyo about North Korea’s missile launch. Photo: Kyodo/via Reuters
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks to reporters in Tokyo about North Korea’s missile launch. Photo: Kyodo/via Reuters

Julian Ryall

North Korea last night fired a ballistic missile from its capital Pyongyang over Japan in an especially aggressive test flight that will further ratchet up tensions in an already fraught region.

Tokyo warned citizens in the North of Japan to take cover after this significant escalation of Kim Jong-Un's military posturing.

Japan's prime minister Shinzo Abe warned that he would take all precautions necessary to protect citizens.

"We will make utmost efforts to firmly protect the lives of the people," Mr Abe, who was visibly angry, told reporters in brief remarks as he entered his office for emergency meetings on the missile firing.

The missile was reported to have broken into three pieces and landed in the sea after flying over the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.

It flew for around 1,700 miles, reaching a maximum altitude of 350 miles, South Korean officials said. The Pentagon confirmed the launch.

The Japanese military made no attempt to shoot down the unidentified missile, but condemned the launch in the strongest terms possible.

North Korea has fired missiles over Japan in the past - in 1998 and 2009 - but last night's launch comes at a time of extreme tensions in the region over Pyongyang's military ambitions.

Yoshihide Suga, Japan's chief cabinet secretary, told a hastily called press conference that the missile fell into the ocean about 730 miles off Cape Erimo, in Hokkaido.

The missile launch poses "a serious, grave security threat to Japan", Mr Suga said, adding that Japan would cooperate closely with the United States and South Korea to counteract the danger posed to the region by North Korea.

South Korea's national security council was holding an emergency meeting last night.

The Pentagon issued a statement that the missile did not represent a threat to the security of North America and said its military was in the process of gathering more intelligence.

The statement was seen as significant and an indication that the missile test would not draw military reprisal from the US.

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson last night said he was "outraged at (the) reckless provocation by North Korea". He strongly condemned the "latest illegal missile launch".

North Korea's leader Kim Jong-Un has overseen more than 80 missile tests - more than both his father and grandfather combined.

In the early hours of Saturday morning, the regime fired several short-range projectiles into the sea off its east coast in what was thought to be a response to US-South Korean joint military exercises.

The projectiles, which officials said were ballistic missiles, flew for 155 miles before landing in sea between the Korean Peninsula and Japan.

Saturday's launch was the first since Pyongyang test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missiles on July 28 that could have been designed to reach 6,200 miles, putting parts of the US mainland within reach.

The North Korean dictator threatened to target Guam, the US territory, with a missile.

That test set off a war of word between Mr Kim and President Donald Trump, and the UN imposed a raft of new sanctions on the rogue state in response.

Rex Tillerson, the US secretary of state, described Saturday's launch as a "provocative act" but said he still hoped to persuade North Korea to come to the negotiating table.

Last week, Mr Trump pointed to the apparent lull in military activity from North Korea as evidence that Mr Kim "is starting to respect us."

Japan's military is currently practising the deployment of anti-missile batteries at three US bases in Japan.

Irish Independent

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