Missile flies over Japan for first time since 2017
Seoul says it appears to have been intermediate-range
Japan issues shelter warning, stops some trains
Test condemned by U.S., South Korea, Japan
(Adds China, Russia opposed to public discussion; U.N.
SEOUL/TOKYO, Oct 4 (Reuters) - Nuclear-armed North Korea
test-fired a ballistic missile farther than ever before on
Tuesday, sending it soaring over Japan for the first time in
five years and prompting a warning for residents there to take
U.S. President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio
Kishida spoke by phone and condemned the test in the "strongest
terms," calling it a danger to the Japanese people, and Biden
reinforced the "ironclad" U.S. commitment to the defence of
Japan, the White House said.
The United States asked the U.N. Security Council to meet on
North Korea on Wednesday but diplomats said China and Russia are
opposed to a public discussion by the 15-member body.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the launch
as a "reckless act" and a violation of Security Council
resolutions. Sanctions have been imposed on North Korea's
weapons programs. U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said it was a
serious concern that Pyongyang had again disregarded
international flight and maritime safety.
It was the first North Korean missile to follow a
trajectory over Japan since 2017, and its estimated 4,600 km
(2,850 mile) flight was the longest in a North Korean test,
which are usually "lofted" into space to avoid flying over
Japan warned its citizens to take cover and suspended some
train services when the missile passed over its north before
falling into the Pacific Ocean.
In response, U.S. and South Korean warplanes practiced
bombing a target in the Yellow Sea and fighter jets from the
United States and Japan also carried out joint drills over the
Sea of Japan, the U.S. military said, the latest move in a cycle
of muscle flexing.
A U.S. aircraft carrier made a port call in South Korea for
the first time since 2018 on Sept. 23, and North Korea has
conducted five launches in the last 10 days.
The period has also seen joint drills by the United States,
South Korea and Japan, and a visit to the fortified border
between the Koreas by U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris.
North Korea accuses Washington and its allies of threatening
it with exercises and defence build-ups.
Recent tests had drawn relatively muted responses from
Washington, which is focused on the war in Ukraine and other
But the U.S. military has stepped up displays of force and
the White House National Security Council called the latest test
"dangerous and reckless." The United States was still analysing
the test "so we can better understand what capabilities they put
in the air", national security spokesman John Kirby told Fox
South Korea's defence minister, Lee Jong-sup, told
parliament North Korea had completed preparations for a first
nuclear test since 2017 and it might use a smaller weapon meant
for operational use, or a big device with a higher yield than in
Lee said it was difficult to predict when North Korea would
conduct its seventh nuclear test, but lawmakers briefed by
intelligence officials last week said a window could be between
China's Communist Party Congress this month and U.S. midterm
elections in November.
The top U.S. diplomat for East Asia, Daniel Kritenbrink,
said a nuclear test was likely only awaiting a political
decision and would represent "a grave escalation that would
seriously threaten regional and international stability and
Kritenbrink accused China and Russia of emboldening North
Korea by not properly enforcing sanctions.
The White House said Biden and Kishida "resolved to continue
every effort to limit the DPRKs ability to support its unlawful
ballistic missile and weapons of mass destruction programs."
After Tuesday's test, a South Korean air force jet
dropped a pair of guided bombs on a target off its west coast,
in what Seoul called a demonstration of precision strike
capability against the source of North Korean provocations.
Japan said it took no steps to shoot the missile down but
Defence Minister Yasukazu Hamada said it would not rule out any
options, including counterattack capabilities, as it looks to
strengthen its defences. South Korea also said it would boost
its military and increase allied cooperation.
South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said the test appeared
to have been of an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM)
launched from North Korea's Jagang Province. North Korea has
conducted several recent tests from there, including multiple
missiles that it said were "hypersonic".
The initial details suggested the missile may have been the
Hwasong-12 IRBM, which North Korea unveiled in 2017 as part of
what it said was a plan to strike U.S. military bases in Guam,
said Kim Dong-yup, a former South Korea Navy officer who teaches
at Kyungnam University.
The Hwasong-12 was used in 2017 tests that overflew Japan,
and Kim noted it was also test fired from Jagang in January.
Flying a missile such a long distance allows North Korea's
scientists to test under more realistic conditions, said Ankit
Panda of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
"Compared to the usual highly lofted trajectory, this allows
them to expose a long-range reentry vehicle to thermal loads and
atmospheric reentry stresses that are more representative of the
conditions they'd endure in real-world use," he said.
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol called the test
"reckless" and said it would bring a decisive response from his
country, its allies and the international community.
Japan's Kishida called North Korea's action "barbaric".
Even so, Kritenbrink said Washington remained open to talks
with North Korea, while warning of U.S. resolve to pursue
further sanctions and other costs on Pyongyang.
Decades of U.S.-led sanctions have not stemmed North Korea's
increasingly sophisticated missile and nuclear bomb programs,
and its leader Kim Jong Un has shown no interest in returning a
failed path of diplomacy he pursued with former U.S. President
(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin and Josh Smith in Seoul, and
Chang-Ran Kim and Kantaro Komiya in Tokyo; Additional reporting
by Susan Heavey, Phil Stewart and David Brunnstrom in
Washington; Writing by Josh Smith; Editing by Gerry Doyle,
Jonathan Oatis and Grant McCool)