TOKYO, Japan – Provoking yet again, North Korea filed a ballistic missile that passed over Japan’s northern end of Tohoku, leaving not just Tokyo but Asia outraged.
Condemning the launch “in strongest terms possible,” Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters early Tuesday that the missile flew over the country, before falling into the sea.
Abe said that he would take all measures necessary to protect the Japanese republic.
Addressing reporters, he said, “We will make utmost efforts to firmly protect the lives of the people.”
The projectiles, which were thought to be ballistic missiles, flew for 155 miles before breaking the missile into three pieces and landing in the sea in between the Korean Peninsula and Japan.
Japanese broadcaster NHK reported that after reports of the launch emerged, the Japanese government warned that a North Korean missile was headed toward the Tohoku region at the northern end of the country.
The broadcaster also reported that Japan took no action to shoot down the projectile.
It quoted local government officials as saying that people living in the area were urged to take refuge in solid buildings or underground shelters.
A South Korean military official said that the projectile was fired around 5:57 a.m. local time on Tuesday.
The U.S. Pacific Command projected that the missile will splash down at 6:29 a.m. local time.
The missile launch comes a day after U.S. and Japanese servicemen concluded joint exercises in Japan’s northernmost major island, Hokkaido.
In a statement, a senior U.S. intelligence official said that this would be the first missile test to pass over Japan on a high altitude trajectory.
Earlier, in 1998, North Korea fired a missile through Japanese airspace.
The recent launch comes days after North Korea fired three short-range ballistic missiles, one of which failed in flight.
The launch also comes at a time of extreme tensions in the region over Pyongyang’s military ambitions.
Reports noted that so far, the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong Un has overseen more than 80 missile tests – more than both his father and grandfather combined.
The launch on Saturday morning was the first since it test-fired a missile on July 28 that could have been designed to reach 6,200 miles, putting parts of the U.S. mainland within reach.
Saturday’s launch was North Korea’s second such launch since the United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution imposing new sanctions against the reclusive nuclear nation on August 5.
The launch also comes a little over a week after the U.S. and South Korean forces began their annual military exercises that the North feels is a provocation and a rehearsal for war.
With tensions soaring high in the peninsula, the series of large-scale exercises held each spring have further threatened the break out of a war – especially since the U.S. President Donald Trump and the North Korean dictator have exchanged a heated war of threats, with one promises “fire and fury” and the other revealing plans to nuke a world superpower.
Last month, North Korea tested its only ICBM — the Hwasong-14 and experts pointed out that the missile is capable of reaching the U.S. mainland.
Currently, Japan’s military is in the process of practicing deploying anti-missile batteries at three U.S. bases in Japan.
According to the U.S. military, the drills will test the ability of Japanese and U.S. forces to work together and assess firing locations at the bases.
They will also reportedly allow Japan to practice rapid deployment of its PAC-3 anti-missile system.
Calling Saturday’s launch a “provocative act,” Rex Tillerson, the U.S. secretary of state said he still hoped to persuade North Korea to come to the negotiating table.