North Korea fired a ballistic missile early Sunday morning, raising fresh concern as the missile may be capable of reaching the US territory of Guam with a key Air Force base, Japan’s Jiji Press reported.
The missile, launched from Kusong in North Korea’s northwestern region around 5.28am, fell into the Sea of Japan after a 30-minute flight, according to the South Korean military and the Japanese government.
In Japan, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the missile flew some 800 kilometers east-northeast from Kusong and fell into the sea at a point 400 kilometers east of the Korean Peninsula.
The point is believed to be outside the Japanese exclusive economic zone. CNN reported that the missile fell into the sea 97 kilometers south of Vladivostok in Russia’s Far East.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe strongly protested North Korea’s additional provocative move, saying the missile launch is definitely intolerable.
Japan will maintain its cooperation with the United States and South Korea and stay on high alert in order to fully ensure the safety of the Japanese people, Abe also said.
He added his country will respond to the launch resolutely.
Defence Minister Tomomi Inada said the missile, believed to be a new model, reached an altitude of more than 2,000 kilometers, indicating the possibility that it was fired on a lofted trajectory.
The US Pacific Command said the missile does not seem to be an intercontinental ballistic missile.
In an article on the website of the Union of Concerned Scientists, US expert David Wright said that if the missile was flown on a standard trajectory, it would have a maximum range of 4,500 kilometers, longer than the distance between North Korea and Guam.
At the prime minister’s office, Japan held a meeting of its National Security Council.
The missile launch was the first one since South Korean President Moon Jae-in took office on Wednesday.
In South Korea, Moon held a national security council meeting following a report of the missile launch.
Denouncing North Korea’s missile firing, Moon said dialogue becomes possible only when the communist country changes its attitude.
The remark came after Moon expressed on Wednesday his readiness to visit Pyongyang when conditions are right.
Moon now described the launch as a clear violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions and a threat to the peace and security of the Korean Peninsula and the international community.
South Korea needs to respond resolutely to prevent North Korea from making a wrong judgment, Moon also said.
Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and his South Korean counterpart, Yun Byung-se, had a telephone conversation.
The two ministers confirmed that their countries and the United States will work together even more closely, including at the United Nations.
Sunday’s firing came after North Korea carried out ballistic missile launches in March and April, including failed ones.
On March 6, the country fired four missiles simultaneously and three of them fell into waters inside the Japanese EEZ. The latest launch followed the one on April 29, which is believed to have failed. – Bernama