Just before 6 a.m. local time Tuesday morning, North Korea launched a ballistic missile eastward over Japan and into the Pacific Ocean. The latest missile launch by the Kim Jong-un regime—which has scaled up its missile tests of late, firing 18 missiles this year alone—is particularly provocative because the rocket’s flight path traversed the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, some 850 miles north east of the North Korean capital. Japanese officials said the missile broke into three pieces, which landed some 730 miles off the coast of Hokkaido.
The North Korean missile landed east of this red mark. Japanese military aircraft are now out looking for debris, local media report pic.twitter.com/hUAgchDmHp— Anna Fifield (@annafifield) August 29, 2017
The aggressiveness of North Korea’s latest test is evident in Japan’s alarmed response. “Japan’s upgraded missile response system swung into action, sending emergency alerts through cell phones and over loud speakers shortly after 6 a.m. local time, warning people on the potential flight path of the threat and advising them to take cover,” the Washington Post reports. Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called an emergency national security council meeting in response to the launch and said the Japanese government “was prepared to take all the measures to protect people’s lives.” “Launching a missile and flying it over our country was a reckless act, and it represents a serious threat without precedent to Japan,” Abe said of the North Korean missile test.
North Korea’s other recent missile tests were intentionally fired to land in the sea between the two countries, making Tuesday's launch a notably more aggressive action by Pyongyang. North Korea fired a missile over Japan in 1998 and a portion of a fired North Korean rocket crossed Japan in 2009. The move is a dramatic escalation and particularly dangerous, according to analysts, because the potential for the poorly made rockets to break into pieces during flight, which could cause an unintentional strike on Japan.