North Korea launched a ballistic missile Tuesday that flew over Japan, escalating already heightened tensions with the United States and its allies over its nuclear and missile weapons development, the Pentagon said.
The Japanese government issued an immediate rebuke. At one point, residents in several prefectures in northern regions of Japan were told to take cover, according to the Washington Post.
“We assess North Korea conducted a missile launch within the last 90 minutes,” the Pentagon said. “We can confirm that the missile launched by North Korea flew over Japan. We are still in the process of assessing this launch. North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) determined the missile launch from North Korea did not pose a threat to North America.”
It added, “We are working closely with Pacific Command, Strategic Command and NORAD and will provide an update as soon as possible.”
Tuesday’s launch is the second time that North Korea has fired a projectile over Japan. On Sept. 1, 1998, the north fired a Daepodong-1 rocket that passed without permission through Japanese airspace. The rocket splashed down into the ocean.
Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff on Tuesday said the South Korean and U.S. militaries were analyzing the launch and didn’t immediately confirm how far the projectile traveled and where it landed.
Shinzo Abe, the Japanese prime minister, said that he would take all measures necessary to protect the Japanese republic, Britain’s Telegraph reported.
“We will make utmost efforts to firmly protect the lives of the people,” Abe told reporters in brief remarks as he entered his office for emergency meetings on the missile firing.
The launch comes days after the North fired what was assessed as three short-range ballistic missiles into the sea and a month after its second flight test of an intercontinental ballistic missile, which analysts say could reach deep into the U.S. mainland when perfected.
The North has also threatened to lob some of its missiles toward Guam and expressed anger over the ongoing annual war games between the United States and South Korea.