North Korea has tested an unprecedented number of missiles this year as it diversifies and expands its arsenal as part of leader Kim Jong Un’s five-year plan. North Korea has conducted five ballistic missile tests since September. 24, ahead of Vice President Harris’ visit to the region.
In recent weeks, the governments of the United States, Japan and South Korea have all conducted military exercises aimed at demonstrating the readiness of allies to work together in the event of a conflict. The latest launch comes as the United States and South Korea wrap up joint military exercises involving the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan.
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While allies say the drills are defensive in nature, Kim Jong Un’s regime has long viewed them as a hostile act and has used them to justify its weapons development and nuclear program. Tuesday’s launch was North Korea’s seventh missile launch over Japan since 1998.
There are signs that a new escalation cycle has formed, with North Korea rejecting proposals and possibly preparing for a seventh nuclear test amid a diplomatic standoff with Washington and changing security dynamics in the region.
Residents of Aomori Prefecture on Tuesday morning wake up to the blaring siren Warn them of missile launch. Fishermen working off the coast of Aomori where the missile fell, told Japanese news media the launch posed a serious threat to their safety.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida convened a national security meeting and condemned the launch. Japanese officials said their strongest words of condemnation came through diplomatic channels.
“The recent repeated missile launches are outrageous and we strongly condemn this,” Kishida said.
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According to missile experts, this medium-range ballistic missile is believed to be or may be similar to the Hwasong-12. The missile’s range includes Japan and Guam, a U.S. territory in the Pacific Ocean east of Japan.
North Korea fired the missile from Chagang province in the north of the country, South Korean military officials said. Japanese officials said the missile was launched at 7:22 a.m. and flew 4,600 kilometers (2,858 miles) over Aomori for 22 minutes before landing in the Pacific Ocean. Its maximum altitude is 1,000 kilometers (621 miles).
Min Joo Kim in Seoul and Julia Mio Inuma in Tokyo contributed to this report.