Japan sent rare warning to residents to shelter from North Korean missile

NORTH Korea fired a missile over Japan for the first time since 2017, prompting a rare public warning and further ratcheting up tensions over Kim Jong Un’s nuclear program.

The missile launched Tuesday appears to have splashed down in waters to the east of Japan, government spokesman Hirokazu Matsuno told a news briefing, adding there were no reports of damage. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida condemned the launch.

North Korea fired what appears to be an intermediate-range ballistic missile at 7:23 a.m. from Jagang province that flew over Japan, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said. It would be the longest-range missile North Korea has launched since May and it comes after Pyongyang in late September fired off one of its biggest barrages of missiles in a week under Kim.

There may be further provocations to come as the US, Japan and South Korea have warned that Kim’s regime is preparing to test its first nuclear device since 2017. Kim has ignored US calls to get back to stalled nuclear disarmament talks and fired off ballistic missiles in defiance of United Nations Security Council resolutions as attention is diverted to Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The US push to isolate Russia over Vladimir Putin’s war, coupled with increasing animosity toward China, has allowed Kim to strengthen his nuclear deterrent without fear of facing more sanctions at the UN Security Council. There’s almost no chance Russia or China, which have veto power at the council, would support any measures against North Korea as they did in 2017 following a series of weapons tests that prompted former President Donald Trump to warn of “fire and fury.”

The two countries in late May vetoed a Security Council resolution drafted by the US to increase sanctions on North Korea for its ballistic missile tests this year.

The Japanese government had earlier broadcast a notice to the Japanese public that a North Korean missile was heading toward the northern part of the country.

“A missile has been launched, a missile has been launched,” were among some of the warnings read by broadcasters with television screens only showing a black screen with white text. It warned residents of less populated areas of some remote islands — part of Tokyo as well as Hokkaido and Aomori prefectures — to take shelter from a missile fired from North Korea.

North Korea timed past weapons tests to coincide with political events. The latest launches coincided with a visit to Japan and South Korea by US Vice President Kamala Harris, as well as the arrival of the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier group to South Korea for joint drills. North Korea has bristled for decades at US-South Korean military exercises, calling them a prelude to an invasion. – BLOOMBERG