On the two previous occasions its rockets crossed Japan – in 1998 and 2009 – North Korea said they were for satellite launch vehicles, not weapons.
According to the South Korean military, the missile was fired eastward just before 06:00 local time from near Pyongyang – which is rare.
Early analysis of the launch suggests the missile flew a distance of more than 1,680 miles and reached a maximum altitude of about 342 miles, lower than most previous North Korean tests. The missile was likely a Hwasong-12, a newly developed intermediate range weapon, and fell into the North Pacific Ocean 740 miles off the Japanese coast after breaking into three pieces.
No effort was made by the Japanese to shoot down the missile but it issued a safety warning telling citizens in Hokkaido to take shelter in “a sturdy building or basement”.
US and Japanese forces are currently taking part in training drills in Hokkaido.
South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in ordered a show of “overwhelming” force in response to the launch. Four South Korean jets staged a live bombing drill on August 29.
Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe said he had spoken to President Donald Trump and that both agreed to increase pressure on North Korea.
Shinzo Abe said the North Korea’s “reckless action is an unprecedented, serious and a grave threat to our nation” which also “greatly damages regional peace and security”.
The prime minister said his government was doing its utmost to protect people’s lives.
North Korea’s conventional and nuclear weapons programs are a breach of international sanctions, so the test is being seen as a major provocation and an escalation of tensions on the Korean peninsula.
Earlier this month, North Korea threatened to fire missiles towards the US Pacific territory of Guam, while President Donald Trump warned Pyongyang would face “fire and fury” if it continued to threaten the US.
There have also been some reports in recent months that North Korea is preparing to carry out its sixth nuclear test.
However, last week, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the fact that North Korea had not carried out any missile launches since the UN imposed a fresh round of sanctions was an indication of restraint by Pyongyang.
Amid growing concerns about North Korea’s missile program, the US military has ordered a navy strike group to move towards the Korean peninsula.
The Carl Vinson Strike Group comprises an aircraft carrier and other warships.
US Pacific Command described the deployment – now heading towards the western Pacific – as a prudent measure to maintain readiness in the region.
President Donald Trump has said the US is prepared to act alone to deal with the nuclear threat from North Korea.
US Pacific Command spokesman Dave Benham said: “The number one threat in the region continues to be North Korea, due to its reckless, irresponsible and destabilizing program of missile tests and pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability.”
The Carl Vinson Strike Group comprises the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, two guided-missile destroyers and a guided-missile cruiser.
Image source Wikimedia
As well as massive striking power, the strike group has the capability to intercept ballistic missiles.
The group was originally due to make port calls in Australia but instead has been diverted from Singapore to the west Pacific – where it recently conducted exercises with the South Korean Navy.
North Korea has carried out several nuclear tests and experts predict more could be in the offing as the country moves closer towards developing a nuclear warhead with a big enough range to reach the US.
North Korea has announced that it successfully tested an engine designed for an intercontinental ballistic missile.
According to the KCNA news agency, the new type of engine would “guarantee” the ability to launch a nuclear strike on the US mainland.
The test was conducted at North Korea’s long-range missile launch site near its west coast.
It is the latest in a series of tests and launches carried out by North Korea.
Kim Jong-un supervised the test, state media report, during which “the engine spewed out huge flames with a deafening boom”.
North Korea would now be able to “keep any cesspool of evils in the earth including the US mainland within our striking range,” the country’s leader was quoted as saying.
In response to the latest announcement, US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said North Korea should “refrain from actions and rhetoric that further destabilize the region and focus instead on taking concrete steps toward fulfilling its commitments and international obligations”.
In March, North Korea said it had developed nuclear warheads small enough to fit on ballistic missiles.
However, experts cast doubt on the claims.
Last month also saw North Korea threaten “indiscriminate” nuclear strikes on the US and South Korea as they held big joint military drills, which the north sees as a rehearsal for an eventual invasion.
Meanwhile, the US imposed new sanctions on North Korea following a nuclear test in January and a satellite launch in February, widely seen as a test of banned missile technology.
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