In the latest worrying escalation of tensions over North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, Pyongyang fired a ballistic missile over Japan Friday morning (local time). This is the second instance in just over two weeks where North Korea has fired a missile over Japanese airspace and into the Pacific Ocean. The fact that the missile launches violated Japanese airspace is a new level of provocation and increases the chances of escalation if Pyongyang misfires and hits Japan or the missile itself breaks apart and crashes into Japan. The tests have rattled nerves in Japan and South Korea, who have bulked up their rhetoric in response to Kim Jong-un’s increasing aggression.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson issued a stern statement in response to the launch and put public pressure on China and Russia to do more to rein in North Korea:
United Nations security council resolutions, including the most recent unanimous sanctions resolution, represent the floor, not the ceiling, of the actions we should take. We call on all nations to take new measures against the Kim regime. China supplies North Korea with most of its oil. Russia is the largest employer of North Korean forced labor. China and Russia must indicate their intolerance for these reckless missile launches by taking direct actions of their own.
According to the Guardian, people living on the Japanese island of Hokkaido, which is in the flight path of the missile, received this emergency text message around 7 a.m. Friday morning: "Missile launched. Missile launched. It seems that the missile has been launched from North Korea. Please evacuate to a building with strong structure or go to the basement."
The launch comes days after the United Nations issued more sanctions against North Korea in response to Pyongyang conducting its sixth nuclear test earlier this month.