North Korea has fired a missile that flew over Japan’s northern Hokkaido far out into the Pacific Ocean, further ratcheting up tensions after Pyongyang’s recent test of a powerful nuclear bomb.
The missile flew over Japan, landing in the Pacific about 2000km east of Hokkaido, Japan Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters in a hastily organised media conference early on Friday.
“These repeated provocations on the part of North Korea are unpermissible and we protest in the strongest words,” Suga said.
The unidentified missile reached an altitude of about 770km and flew 3700km, according to South Korea’s military – far enough to reach the US Pacific territory of Guam.
The United Nations Security Council voted unanimously on a US-drafted resolution and a new round of sanctions on Monday, banning North Korea’s textile exports and capping fuel supplies.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was quick to condemn the launch.
“This is another dangerous, reckless, criminal act by the North Korean regime, threatening the stability of the region and the world and we condemn it, utterly,” he said in an interview with Sky News.
“This is a sign, I believe, of their frustration at the increased sanctions on North Korea, recently imposed by the Security Council. It’s a sign that the sanctions are working.”
Mr Turnbull later fronted the media, where he addressed whether further sanctions would increase the risk of attack on Japan.
“I don’t accept that. The critical thing is to continue to apply economic pressure on North Korea to bring the regime to it senses,” he said.
“Nobody wants to see a war on the Korean Peninsula. If Kim Jong-un were to start a war, to attack the United States or one of its allies, he would be signing a suicide note.
“That would be the end for his government and thousands and thousands of people would die. It would be a catastrophe and that is why it is vitally important to maintain this economic pressure on North Korea.”
Last month, North Korea fired a missile from similar area near the capital Pyongyang that also flew over Hokkaido into the ocean.
South Korea said it had fired a missile test into the sea to coincide with North Korea’s launch. The presidential Blue House has called an urgent National Security Council meeting. Japan also convened a National Security Council meeting.
The North’s launch comes a day after it threatened to sink Japan and reduce the US to “ashes and darkness” for supporting a UN Security Council resolution imposing new sanctions against it for its September 3 nuclear test, its most powerful by far.
The North accuses the US, which has 28,500 troops in South Korea, of planning to invade and regularly threatens to destroy it and its Asian allies.
The US dollar fell sharply against the safe-haven yen and Swiss franc in early Asian hours in response to the launch, though losses were quickly pared in very jittery trade.
US President Donald Trump has vowed that North Korea will never be allowed to threaten the US with a nuclear-tipped missile, but has also asked China to do more to rein in its neighbour. China in turn favours an international response to the problem.
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