North Korean Ballistic Missile Flies Over Japan in Sharp Escalation of Tensions

Japanese official describes the launch as 'an unprecedented threat to our nation' and says Tokyo will work closely with Washington on a response

This undated photo released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency on August 26, 2017 shows rockets being launched at an undisclosed location in North Korea.
STR/AFP

North Korea fired a missile early on Tuesday that flew over Japan and landed in the Pacific waters off the northern region of Hokkaido, South Korea and Japan 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. 

South Korea's military said the latest missile was launched from the Sunan region near the North Korean capital Pyongyang just before 6 A.M. local time and flew 2,700 kilometers (1,678 miles), reaching the altitude of about 550 kilometers. 

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the North Korean missile fell into the sea 1,180 kilometers (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. 

Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported the missile broke into three pieces and fell into the waters off 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 6:06 A.M. 

The Pentagon confirmed the missile flew over Japan but did not pose a threat to North America and said it was gathering further information. 

The launch marks a sharp escalation in tensions over Pyongyang's pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles in defiance of UN sanctions. 

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