North Korea has fired a ballistic missile that flew over Japan before plunging into the northern Pacific Ocean, in a step termed by the Japanese prime minister as a “grave threat”.
The launch appeared to be the first to cross over Japan since 2009, and comes amid ongoing annual military drill being carried out between the US and its close ally in the region, South Korea.
The South’s joint chiefs of staff said the missile travelled abouit 2,700km and reached a maximum height of 550km as it flew over the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido and landed in the sea.
The projectile was launched from the Sunan region near the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, just before 6am local time on Tuesday (21:00 GMT on Monday), the South Korean military said.
Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported that the missile flew over the northernmost main island of Hokkaido and broke into three pieces and fell into the waters 1,180km east of Cape Erimo.
The test appeared to have been of a recently developed intermediate-range Hwasong-12 missile, experts said. It is the same sort of missile that North Korean threatened to fire on the US territory of Guam.
The Japanese government’s J-Alert warning system advised people in northern Japan to take precautions, but NHK said there was no sign of damage.
Japan’s military did not attempt to shoot down the missile, which passed over Japanese territory at about 6:06am local time (21:06 GMT).
There was no immediate comment from North Korea.