North Korea Fires A Missile Over Japan For The First Time In Decades

North Korea fired a ballistic missile over Japan early Tuesday morning, according to the U.S., South Korean, and Japanese armed forces.

North Korea fired a ballistic missile from the capital city of Pyongyang, towards the Pacific Ocean, Yonhap News Agency reports, citing the South Korean military. The weapon flew over Japan and splashed down in the Pacific Ocean over 700 miles east of the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. While there were early reports that North Korea fired three missiles, the Japanese government has clarified that the weapon broke into three parts after traveling more than 1,600 miles.

“We’ll take utmost efforts to protect the public,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in a brief statement intended to reassure the alarmed Japanese people, some of which were instructed to prepare for a possible North Korean missile strike. The initial trajectory suggested that the missile might be headed for northern Japan.

Tuesday’s launch follows another provocative launch over the weekend in which North Korea fired three short-range ballistic missiles into the East Sea/Sea of Japan. While U.S. Pacific Command initially reported that all of the missiles failed, it later changed its assessment, stating that only one of the three failed.

Tuesday’s missile launch represents a major escalation at a time of heightened tension in Northeast Asia. “This ballistic missile appeared to fly over our territory,” Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, a senior government spokesman, said in response, “It is an unprecedented, serious and grave threat to our nation.”

North Korea launched satellite launch vehicles, not missiles, over Japan in 1998 and 2009.

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