North Korea fires ballistic missile towards Japan – and it's not the first time Kim Jong-un's done so

North Korea fires ballistic missile towards Japan – and it's not the first time Kim Jong-un's done so
Japan: Emergency Alert Issued For Hokkaido After North Korea Fires Missile

Haunting emergency sirens blared in Japan on Thursday morning, as the government used its J-Alert system to warn residents on Hokkaido island of an imminent missile coming from North Korea.

The intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), which one anonymous South Korean defence official said could possibly have seen Mr Kim’s military test a new type of weapon, was fired near North Korea’s capital of Pyongyang at 7.23am local time.

It then flew 1,000km before hitting water between the Korean Peninsula and Japan, South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff said in a statement.

Advice to take immediate cover ahead of a missile being likely to fall around 8am local time (2300 GMT) was issued to Hokkaido citizens, before retracting the alert when the ICBM disappeared from Japan’s radar immediately after detection.

The country’s chief cabinet secretary, Hirokazu Matsuno, said the alert was not a mistake.

Meanwhile, the US’s National Security Council (NSC) spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in her statement that the country “strongly condemns” the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) for the test.

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She said: “The president and his national security team are assessing the situation in close coordination with our allies and partners. This launch is a brazen violation of multiple UN Security Council resolutions and needlessly raises tensions and risks destabilising the security situation in the region.

“This action demonstrates that the DPRK continues to prioritize its unlawful weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs over the well-being of its people. We urge all countries to condemn these violations and call on the DPRK to come to the table for serious negotiations.

“The door has not closed on diplomacy, but Pyongyang must immediately cease its destabilizing actions and instead choose diplomatic engagement. The United States will take all necessary measures to ensure the security of the American homeland and Republic of Korea and Japanese allies.”

While previous missiles have been liquid-fuelled, a solid-propellant ICBM is easier to store and transport and can be fired with little warning or preparation required.

It isn’t the first missile to land near Japan since Mr Kim’s became North Korea’s supreme leader back in 2011, either.

March 2014

All the way back in early 2014, it was reported that two ballistic missiles flew 650km from North Korea and landed into the Sea of Japan, with South Korea’s defence ministry spokesperson Kim Min-Seok saying at the time that the characteristics of the weapon and its launch suggested it was a Rodong missile, capable of a maximum range of between 1,000 to 1,500 kilometres.

“This missile is capable of hitting not only most of Japan but also Russia and China. So it is a fairly dangerous missile," he added.

Meanwhile, the US said it would “take the appropriate measures in response” to the test.

August 2016

More than two years later, another escalation came when reports emerged of North Korea firing two long-range missiles towards Japan, landing in the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

The EEZ is the offshore area of the country where it has the sovereign right to explore and exploit resources, and the medium-range ballistic missile flew about 1,000km (620 miles) before landing in the zone.

The prime minister at the time, the late Shinzo Abe, said: “It imposes a serious threat to Japan’s security and it is an unforgivable act of violence toward Japan’s security.”

Pentagon spokesman Gary Ross, a Navy comamnder, added: “This provocation only serves to increase the international community’s resolve to counter the DPRK’s prohibited activities, including through implementing existing UN Security Council sanctions.”

March 2017

The EEZ would be hit again just a few months later, when North Korea fired four ballistic missiles, of which three landed as close as 190 miles off the coast of Japan.

South Korean military officials reported that “multiple ballistic missiles” were launched from the Tongchang-ri region of the DPRK, close to its border with China, and flew about 620 miles (1,000km).

Mr Abe said of this incident: “The launches are clearly in violation of Security Council resolutions. It is an extremely dangerous action.”

He also said it shows the country has become a “new kind of threat”.

Meanwhile, the United States said it “strongly [condemned]” the launches as violations of UN Security Council resolutions which explicitly prohibit North Korea using “ballistic missile technology”.

The statement from the State Department’s spokesman at the time, Mark Toner, continued: “We remain prepared – and will continue to take steps to increase our readiness – to defend ourselves and our allies from attack, and are prepared to use the full range of capabilities at our disposal against this growing threat.”

August 2017

Hokkaido, the same island which issued alerts on Thursday, also had to warn citizens to “evacuate to a sturdy building or underground” in August 2017, when a ballistic missile was fired from North Korea and fell into the sea 735 miles east of Cape Erimo on the island.

The Japanese government said the test was an “unprecedented, serious and grave threat to the country”.

It also came despite then US President Donald Trump stating North Korea would be met with “fire and fury like the world has never seen” if it escalated its nuclear threat.

North Korea’s UN ambassador Han Tae-song told the group’s disarmament forum: “My country has every reason to respond with tough counter-measures as an exercise of its right to self-defence.

"The US should be fully responsible for the catastrophic consequences it will entail."

September 2017

Hokkaido were warned again just weeks later, when another missile reportedly travelled 3,700km and flew over Japan, causing a situation which US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said “put millions of Japanese into duck and cover”.

Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, condemned the attack in the strongest possible terms, and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said: “China and Russia must indicate their intolerance for these reckless missile launches by taking direct actions of their own.”

Scientists and defence chiefs said the missile, which went into the Pacific Ocean, was capable of reaching the US territory of Guam.

November 2017

After a two-month respite from military tests, the Pentagon said it believed an ICBM travelled around 1,000km before hitting the Sea of Japan, with the Japanese Defence Ministry adding it remained airborne for 50 minutes and then likely landed in the EEZ.

Back when President Trump had Twitter the first time around (as in, before he was banned), the Republican demonstrated he understood the gravity of the situation by tweeting: “After North Korea missile launch, it’s more important than ever to fund our gov’t and military! Dems shouldn’t hold troop funding hostage for amnesty and illegal immigration.

“They can’t now threaten a shutdown to get their demands.”

Of course, this is also the President who decided to nickname Mr Kim “Little Rocket Man”, in an excellent display of maturity.

Mr Tillerson was a lot firmer in his response, though, saying in a statement that North Korea’s “relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them must be reversed” and that “diplomatic options remain viable for now”.

October 2019

What was believed to be a submarine-launched ballistic missile known as a Pukkuksong was fired, travelled around 280 miles (250km) and landed inside Japan’s EEZ.

This particular launch happened in the same year President Trump hosted summits with Mr Kim and became the first sitting US President to enter North Korea in 2019.

September 2021

After trying out launching missiles from a submarine, the DPRK decided to test firing one from a train in September 2021.

Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency claimed the missiles were launched during a drill of a “railway-borne missile regiment” and accurately struck a sea target 800km (500 miles) away.

The South Korean and Japanese militaries, meanwhile, said the two missiles landed inside its EEZ but outside its territorial waters.

March 2022

Five years since it last fired an ICBM, North Korea launched one which Japan’s vice defence minister Majoto Oniki said reached an altitude of more than 6,000km. It landed in the sea 170km west of the country’s northern prefecture of Aomori and inside its EEZ.

Bizarrely, in remarks which would be repeated word-for-word a year later by the aforementioned NSC spokesperson Adrienne Watson, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the launch “a brazen violation of multiple UN Security Council resolutions and needlessly raises tensions and risks destabilising the security situation in the region.”

Good to know originality is alive and well in the White House.

October 2022

Trains were temporarily suspended and alerts were issued once again in Hokkaido in October 2022, when a missile from North Korea flew an alarming 4,660km over northern Japan and landed in the Pacific Ocean.

“North Korea’s series of actions, including its repeated ballistic missile launches, threatens the peace and security of Japan, the region, and the international community, and poses a serious challenge to the entire international community, including Japan,” Japan’s top government spokesperson, Hirokazu Matsuno, told reporters.

November 2022

The Japanese defence minister said an ICBM capable of striking the entire mainland of the United States flew around 1,000km before landing in the EEZ.

December 2022

Two ballistic missiles landed outside Japan’s EEZ.

April 2023

Of course, this is just the latest missile test, to which the international reaction is ongoing…

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