Regional tensions deepened on Friday after North Korea fired a missile that flew over Japan’s northern Hokkaido far out into the Pacific Ocean, a move that came following Pyongyang’s recent test of its most powerful nuclear bomb.
The missile flew over Japan and landed in the Pacific about 2,000 km east of Hokkaido, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters.
Warning announcements about the missile blared around 7 a.m. in parts of northern Japan, while many residents received alerts on their mobile phones or saw warnings on TV telling them to seek refuge.
The missile reached an altitude of about 770 km and flew for about 19 minutes over a distance of about 3,700 km, according to South Korea’s military – far enough to reach the US Pacific territory of Guam.
The US military said soon after the launch it had detected a single intermediate range ballistic missile but the missile did not pose a threat to North America or the US Pacific territory of Guam, which lies 3,400 km from North Korea. Pyongyang had previously threatened to launch missiles towards Guam.
US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said the launch “put millions of Japanese into duck and cover.”
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also called on China and Russia to take “direct actions” to rein in North Korea.
“China supplies North Korea with most of its oil. Russia is the largest employer of North Korean forced labor,” Tillerson said in a statement.
“China and Russia must indicate their intolerance for these reckless missile launches by taking direct actions of their own.”
The launch, from near Pyongyang, came after the United Nations Security Council imposed an eighth set of sanctions on the country over its ballistic missile and atomic weapons programs.
The sanctions came following North Korea’s sixth nuclear test earlier this month.
It was by far its largest to date and Pyongyang said it was a hydrogen bomb small enough to fit onto a missile.
The Security Council was to meet at 3 p.m. on Friday at the request of the US and Japan, diplomats said.