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Monday 23 July 2018

'Unprecedented and grave threat' - North Korea launches missile over northern Japan

  • 'J-Alert' system used to warn people to take precautions
  • Action an 'unprecedented and grave threat'
  • US says no threat to North America
  • Missile broke into three pieces and entered the water off Japanese coast
  • Missile flew 2,700km
  • UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has said he is 'outraged' by 'reckless provocation'
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un waving from a balcony of the Grand People's Study House to participants of a military parade and mass rally on Kim Il-Sung square in Pyongyang. (AP photo, May 10 2016)
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un waving from a balcony of the Grand People's Study House to participants of a military parade and mass rally on Kim Il-Sung square in Pyongyang. (AP photo, May 10 2016)
A TV at Seoul station shows footage of a North Korean missile launch (AP) Newsdesk Newsdesk

North Korea fired a missile early on Tuesday from near Pyongyang that flew over northern Japan, the South Korean and Japanese governments said, in a sharp escalation of tensions on the Korean peninsula.

The last North Korean projectile to fly over Japan was in 2009. The United States, Japan and South Korea considered that launch to have been a ballistic missile test while North Korea said it was a rocket carrying a communications satellite into orbit.

Public broadcaster NHK reported that the missile broke into three pieces and fell into the waters off Japan's Hokkaido.

The Japanese government's J-Alert warning system advised people in the area to take precautions.

The Japanese military did not attempt to shoot down the missile, which passed over Japanese territory around 6.06am (9.06pm GMT).

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the North Korean missile fell into the sea 1,180 km (733 miles) east of the Cape of Erimo on Hokkaido.

"It is an unprecedented, serious and grave threat to our nation," Suga told a briefing, adding the government had protested the move in the strongest terms.

Suga said the launch was a clear violation of United Nations resolutions and Japan will work closely with the United States, South Korea and other concerned nations on a response, he said.

South Korea's military said the projectile was fired from the Sunan region near the North Korean capital of Pyongyang just before 6.00am.

The missile  flew about 2,700 km (1,677 miles) and reached an altitude of about 550 km, South Korea's military said. The US military is currently analyzing more information.

Tensions had eased between North Korea and the United States after weeks of threats.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un threatened to fire missiles into the sea near the US Pacific territory of Guam and US President Donald Trump warned Pyongyang would face "fire and fury" if it threatened the United States.

The North has also expressed anger over the ongoing annual war games between the United States and South Korea.

Following the latest launch the Pentagon said there was no threat to North America due to the missile and added that the military was in the process of gathering more information.

North Korea launched a missile that flew over Japan, but did not pose a threat to North America, the Pentagon said on Monday.

"We can confirm that the missile launched by North Korea flew over Japan," Pentagon spokesman Colonel Robert Manning told reporters. He said that the U.S. military was gathering further information.

"North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) determined the missile launch from North Korea did not pose a threat to North America," Manning said.

The new missile launch comes as North Korea wants to take its complaints about the war games to the UN Security Council, saying the annual manoeuvres are recklessly provocative at a time of tension.

The letter, dated Friday, asks Egypt as Security Council president to schedule a discussion urgently.

The Egyptian mission did not have any immediate comment on Monday.

Pyongyang regularly argues that the US-South Korean military exercises are an invasion rehearsal.

This year, they come after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump of the US traded warlike threats.

North Korea's UN ambassador, Ja Song Nam, writes in the letter that the exercises are "provocative and aggressive" when the Korean peninsula is "like a time bomb".

A spokeswoman for the US state department disputed that, saying the only purpose of the manoeuvres is to improve readiness to defend South Korea.

"Our annual joint military exercises are transparent, defence-oriented, andhave been carried out regularly and openly under the Combined Forces Command for roughly 40 years," said Grace Choi of the department's East Asian and Pacific Affairs Bureau.

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