On October 4, North Korea launched a nuclear-armed ballistic missile over Japan for the first time in five years, prompting inhabitants to take cover and temporarily suspending rail operations in northern Japan.

As the missile seemed to fly over and past Japanese territory before crashing into the Pacific Ocean, the Japanese government advised civilians to take cover.


It was the first North Korean missile to follow such a trajectory since 2017, and Tokyo said its 4,600 km (2,850 miles) range was possibly the greatest for a North Korean test flight, which is often “lofted” higher into space to avoid passing over neighboring nations.

The latest launch was Pyongyang’s fifth in ten days, as the US, South Korea, and Japan flexed their military muscles. Last week, the three countries held trilateral anti-submarine exercises, which included a visit by a US aircraft carrier to South Korea for the first time since 2017.

Recent tests have elicited relatively subdued responses from Washington, which is preoccupied with the crisis in Ukraine as well as other domestic and international concerns, but the US military has increased its presence in the region.

Tokyo stated that no action was taken to shoot down the missile. Defence Minister Yasukazu Hamada stated that Japan will not rule out any alternatives, including retaliatory capabilities, as it seeks to improve its defenses in the wake of North Korean missile launches. South Korea also stated that it would strengthen its military and expand allied cooperation.

The missile traveled between 4,500 and 4,600 kilometers (2,850 miles) to a maximum height of roughly 1,000 kilometers, according to officials in Tokyo and Seoul.

World Reaction

The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) of South Korea stated that it seemed to be an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) launched from North Korea’s Jagang Province. North Korea has used that province to launch several recent tests, including multiple “hypersonic” missiles.

According to Japanese broadcaster NHK, the test caused East Japan Railway Co to cease train operations in the northern regions. According to Matsuno, there have been no reports of missile damage to aircraft or ships.

According to Kim Dong-yup, a former South Korean Navy officer who now teaches at Kyungnam University, the early flight details suggest the missile was the Hwasong-12 IRBM, which North Korea unveiled in 2017 as part of its threatened plan to hit US military bases in Guam.

The Hwasong-12 was utilized in overflight testing over Japan in 2017, and Kim claimed that it was also tested and fired from Jagang Province in January. Flying a missile at such a great distance allows North Korean scientists to test missiles under more realistic conditions, according to Ankit Panda of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in the United States.

Analysts believe North Korea’s recent missile tests are helping to make more of its weapons operational, develop new capabilities, and send a statement that its weapons development is a sovereign prerogative that should be recognized by the rest of the world.

North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons programs are prohibited by UN Security Council resolutions, and the government has been sanctioned. South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol condemned the test as “reckless” and promised a forceful response from his country’s military, allies, and the international community.

He has advocated for more military power to deter the North, and South Korea held its own display of advanced weaponry on Saturday to commemorate Armed Forces Day, featuring multiple rocket launchers, ballistic missiles, main battle tanks, drones, and F-35 jets.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters in Tokyo that North Korea’s actions were “barbaric,” and that the government will continue to acquire and analyze information. The launch over Japan was “unfortunate” and “not a productive road forward,” said Daniel Kritenbrink, the United States’ top East Asian diplomat, at an online session hosted by the Institute for Corean-American Studies.

South Korean MPs warned last week that the North has finalized preparations for a nuclear test, which it may conduct between China’s Communist Party Congress this month and the November midterm elections in the United States.

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