KUCHING: In a brazen rejection of tough new U.N. sanctions, North Korea fired an intermediate-range missile over Hokkaido on Friday that flew about 3,700 km before splashing down far out in the Pacific Ocean — its second launch over Japan in just over two weeks, reports the Japan Times.
The Japanese government said the missile was launched at around 6.57am local time. and went down at around 7.16am about 2,200 km east of Cape Erimo, the farthest a North Korean missile has ever flown.
At a news conference, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Japan condemned the launch in the strongest words possible.
The missile had flown about 3,700 km in total while reaching a maximum altitude of about 800km, meaning it had not been “lofted,” or launched on steep trajectory. Lofting missiles shortens their range but makes interception exceedingly difficult.
“The Self-Defense Forces detected and tracked the missile perfectly from launch through landing,” Suga said, adding the missile was not intercepted because it was not expected to damage Japanese territory.
However, some experts have cast doubt over whether Japan even has the capabilities to shoot down such a fast-moving, high-flying missile.
Earlier, Suga told reporters at the Prime Minister’s Office that the situation was similar to the one on Aug 29, when North Korea fired an intermediate-range Hwasong-12 missile over Hokkaido, the first unannounced launch of a missile designed to carry a nuclear payload to fly over Japan.
North Korea has previously launched rockets that it said were designed to send telecommunications satellites into orbit. However, Washington, Seoul and Tokyo have decried them as thinly veiled tests of long-range missile technology.
Friday’s missile launch came hours before Prime Minister Shinzo Abe returned from an official visit to India.
Abe, speaking to reporters in Tokyo, said the international community must “firmly unite to send out a clear message” to Pyongyang.
The launch “has again made it clear that (U.N.) resolutions calling for sanctions should be completely implemented,” he said.
“We need to have North Korea understand that they will have no bright future if they keep going this way,” Abe added.
On Monday, the U.N. Security Council approved a tough, new U.S.-drafted sanctions resolution that included a ban on textile exports and a restriction on shipments of oil products, among other measures.
The sanctions were watered down to win the support of Beijing and Moscow, both veto-wielding members of the Security Council, after an earlier tougher draft of the resolution distributed by the US which included a full embargo on oil exports to North Korea.
While Japan did not attempt to intercept the missile, the launch triggered the nation’s J-Alert warning system, which advised people in 11 prefectures and Hokkaido to take precautions. The 11 prefectures were Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi, Akita, Yamagata, Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma, Niigata and Nagano.