In a statement posted on the Twitter account of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the government confirmed that the missile was fired at 5:58 a.m. local time, before breaking into three pieces and landing about 730 miles off the coast of Cape Erimo of Hokkaido about 6:12 a.m.
In a statement, Mr. Abe said his government “was prepared to take all the measures to protect people’s lives.”
“We have lodged a firm protest to North Korea. We have requested an urgent meeting of the U.N. Security Council,” he added. “Under the strong Japan-U.S. alliance, we will take all the measures to confirm people’s safety.”
“We will collect information quickly and take all the measures to protect people’s life,” Mr. Abe said in a brief statement.
In Washington, the Pentagon said that “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 determined the missile launch from North Korea did not pose a threat to North America.”
As it happened, on the morning of the launch, the Japanese Air Self-Defense Forces were demonstrating a PAC III missile defense system in conjunction with the United States Air Force at the base in Yokota, Japan.
In a press conference at Yokota, Lt. Gen. Hiroaki Maehara, the commander of the Air Self-Defense Forces, said Japan did not attempt to shoot down the missile because the government did not detect a threat to Japanese territory. After the launch was first detected, the general said the government warned citizens in the missile’s path to take cover just in case any parts fell on Japan.
Earlier this month, North Korea had threatened to launch four of its Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missiles in a “historic enveloping fire” around Guam, home to major American Air Force and Navy bases. The North at the time said the missiles would fly over southern Japanese provinces on their way toward Guam.
That threat, together with Mr. Trump’s warning that the United States would bring down “fire and fury” if the North didn’t stand down, has significantly raised tensions in the region. On Aug. 5, the United Nations Security Council imposed new sanctions on the country in retaliation for its ICBM tests.
But the anxiety had appeared to ease somewhat after the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, later said he would wait a while, watching the United States behavior, before deciding whether to approve his military’s plan to launch missiles toward Guam.
Just last week, at a rally in Phoenix, Mr. Trump referred to his threats against North Korea, telling the crowd that Mr. Kim was “starting to respect us.”
Days later, North Korea fired the three short-range missiles. Two of them traveled about 155 miles before splashing down, far enough to reach major South Korean and American military bases, including those about 60 miles south of Seoul.
Then came the missile that flew over Japan on Tuesday morning
North Korea has conducted more than 80 missile tests since Mr. Kim came to power in late 2011, after the death of his father, but it has never sent any of those missiles over Japan.
Even when it flight-tested an intercontinental ballistic missile on July 28, it was launched at a highly lofted angle so that the missile reached an altitude of 2,300 miles but only flew 998 horizontal miles, falling in waters between the North and Japan. The North said at the time that it did so in order not to send its missile over a neighbor. Thus, the missile test on Tuesday was considered an especially bold move.
Along with South Korea, Japan and Guam would likely be the first targets of a North Korean attack should war break out on the Korean Peninsula, analysts said. Both are home to major American military bases, which will become key launching pads for American forces in the event of war in Korea.
Last week, American and South Korean forces began twice-yearly war games aimed at preparing for a possible attack by the North. The games continue until the end of August. North Korea has long called the exercise a provocation and a rehearsal for an invasion. The Kim government has previously responded with missile or other weapons tests.
Source: New York Times