North Korea on Tuesday launched a missile that flew over Japan, in the latest of missile tests that dramatically escalated the tension in the region.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called the missile firing the “most serious and grave threat which impairs safety and peace of the region,” portraying it as a reckless act.
It was a brazen and provocative act by North Korea’s young leader Kim Jong-un and came after months of building tension with the U.S.
“Launching a missile and flying it over our country was a reckless act, and it represents a serious threat without precedent to Japan,” Mr. Abe said following an emergency meeting with national security council members.
“We have fully grasped the movement of the missile immediately after their launch and have been taking every possible effort to protect the lives of people,” the Japanese prime minister said in remarks to journalists.
The last time North Korea directly fired a missile over Japan was in 1998 when it launched a satellite vehicle. In 2009, another missile fell to Pacific. But Pyongyang said it informed Japan in advance during the satellite launch. This time, there was no notice at all.
The missile launch comes at a time when the U.S. troops and South Korean forces have been jointly conducting a military drill close to the border with North Korea. Pyongyang said it would take its complaints about the drills, which it portrayed as a dress rehearsal for war against North Korea, to the U.N. Security Council.
It has dismissed the U.S. explanation that the Ulchi-Freedom Guardian exercises do have a defensive character to bolster defensive abilities of South Korea.
David Wright, co-director of the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, told CNN International that the North Koreans “had been carefully avoiding Japan for years.”
With the latest launch, they abandoned that long-standing policy.