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North Korea Fires Missile Over Japan Prompting Warnings For Residents To Shelter

North Korea has reportedly launched a ballistic missile over northern Japan, prompting the government to urge people to shelter from falling debris, in an apparent escalation of recent missile tests by Kim Jong-un’s regime.

Japan’s Kyodo news agency said the government issued the alert on Tuesday morning to residents in the northernmost main island of Hokkaido and the country’s north-eastern Aomori prefecture shortly before 8am.

There was no immediate information on the type of missile involved or how high and far it flew. It is the first time the North has apparently sent a missile over Japanese territory since 2017.

Kyodo reported Japanese defence ministry sources as saying the missile fired on Tuesday had flown eastward over the Japan Sea – known in Korea as the East Sea – before flying over Japanese territory. It said the missile had already landed in the sea outside Japanese waters, but did not provide details. There were no reports of injuries, it added.

Japan’s government issued a swift rebuke, describing the launch as a “threat to regional security”.

The latest launch is the fifth in 10 days, as the North ramps up its response to the resumption of large-scale military exercises by US and South Korean forces. The allies insist the drills are purely defensive, but Pyongyang condemns them as a rehearsal for an invasion.

Tuesday’s test also comes a few days after the US vice-president, Kamala Harris, made a high-profile visit to the heavily armed border separating the two Koreas.

In September 2017, millions of residents in a dozen Japanese prefectures were warned to take cover inside buildings or underground in chilling reminders that Japan is within easy striking distance of North Korean missiles.

A second alert confirmed that the missile, thought to be an intermediate-range Hwasong-12, had passed over without incident and landed in the Pacific 2,000km to the east.

Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, said the recent launches could be a precursor to tests involving larger missiles.

“By now, North Korea’s short-range missile tests suffer diminishing returns in terms of technical advancement, domestic political value, and international signalling. Diplomacy isn’t dead, but talks aren’t about to resume either,” he said.

“Pyongyang is still in the middle of a provocation and testing cycle and is likely waiting until after China’s mid-October Communist party congress to conduct a more militarily significant test.”

He added that the regime of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, “is developing weapons such as tactical nuclear warheads and submarine-launched ballistic missiles as part of a long-term strategy to outrun South Korea in an arms race and drive wedges among US allies”.

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