North Korea again unleashes international alarm
North Korea launched a ballistic missile that flew over Japanese territory on Tuesday, an escalation of tension in the region that sparked international alarm and a harsh reaction from Tokyo.
It is the first North Korean projectile to fly over Japan in years. In July Pyongyang already tested two intercontinental ballistic missiles.
The UN Security Council will meet urgently at the request of Washington and Tokyo, after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has denounced “a serious and unprecedented threat.”
The missile caused alarm in the country. Sirens sounded in the north and millions of citizens received a message from the government on their mobile phone asking them to keep under cover.
Railway traffic was temporarily suspended. “There are disturbances on all lines, reason: ballistic missile firing,” it read on the subway screens of Sapporo, the main city on the island of Hokkaido, in the north of the Japanese archipelago.
In 2009, a North Korean rocket flew over Japanese territory, causing no incidents, but provoked an immediate protest from the Japanese government.
Pyongyang was then justified in asserting that it was a telecommunications satellite, but according to Washington, Seoul and Tokyo, it was a test to develop intercontinental missiles (ICBMs).
The missile was launched from Sunan, near Pyongyang, at 05:57 (GMT) on Tuesday, and it flew over Japan, the South Korean General Staff explained.
The missile traveled 2,700 kilometers reaching a maximum altitude of 550 kilometers before sinking in the Pacific. It was fired eastward, not in the direction of Guam, a major US base 3,500 kilometers from North Korea.
“Increase the pressure”
After the shooting, Shinzo Abe reiterated that US President Donald Trump, engaged in a rhetorical struggle with Pyongyang over his weapons program, said that Washington was going to be with his Japanese ally.
After interviewing over the phone for 40 minutes, both dignitaries agreed to “increase the pressure on North Korea,” said the Japanese prime minister.
Abe had already warned that his government will take “all measures” that are necessary to ensure the safety of the Japanese people.
China, North Korea’s main ally and trading partner, called on all parties to remain cautious. Although the situation has reached a “turning point”, “pressures and sanctions” against the communist regime in Pyongyang “can not solve the problem,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying.
Russia said it was “extremely concerned” and denounced a “trend” to the “escalation” in the crisis.
This launch comes a couple of days after Pyongyang tested three short-range missiles, which were considered a nimble provocation to the joint annual exercise conducted by the United States and South Korea.
The two allies present these operations as defensive, but for Pyongyang are actually a test to invade their territory.
Tuesday’s launch represents a significant escalation by Pyongyang, which this month had threatened to launch missiles at the island of Guam.
An attack of this kind would necessarily have to pass over the Japanese archipelago.
The North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Un, this month distanced himself from the alleged plan to hit Guam and said he could wait, but warned that it was “necessary for the United States to make the right choice.”
“It seemed that North Korea had backtracked on the game of the strongest,” estimates Cha Du-Hyeogn of the Asan Institute of Political Studies in Seoul. “But Pyongyang (…) proves that it has not been deflated.”
The North Korean regime conducted two intercontinental ballistic missile tests in July, which seem to have brought much of the US territory within reach, to which Trump reacted by warning that Washington could respond with “fire and anger.”
Pyongyang has advanced rapidly in its military technology, a program that has earned it a tightening of UN sanctions.
The Security Council unanimously adopted a new package of sanctions against North Korea for firing a missile with the ability to reach US territory, unanimously, after a month of arduous negotiations between Washington and Beijing.
The economic penalties are aimed at punishing North Korea’s exports of coal, iron and the fishing industry, which will deprive the country of $ 1 billion a year in revenue.