North Korea fires missile over Japan as citizens warned to take cover




North Korea fired a missile over Japan early on Tuesday morning, officials said, as Tokyo warned citizens in the north of the country to take cover.

Japan's warning system kicked in, advising citizens on its northern Hokkaido island to take precautions, as the missile headed towards land in what was a significant escalation of Kim Jong-un's military posturing.

The missile later broke into three pieces and landed in the sea. It flew for around 1,700 miles, reaching a maximum altitude of 350 miles, South Korean officials said. The Pentagon confirmed the launch.

The Japanese military made no attempt to shoot down the unidentified missile, but condemned the launch in the strongest terms possible..

"We will do our utmost to protect people's lives," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters. "This reckless act of launching a missile that flies over our country is an unprecedented, serious and important threat."

Following a 40-minute phone call with Donald Trump, he said he and the US president had agreed to escalate the pressure on North Korea. "We must immediately hold an emergency meeting at the United Nations, and further strengthen pressure against North Korea," Mr Abe said.

Rex Tillerson, the US secretary of state, and South Korea's foreign minister agreed to consider tougher sanctions against the North in response to the missile test, South Korea said.

Yoon Young-chan, a spokesman for the presidential Blue House in Seoul, also told a briefing that South Korean fighter jets conducted bombing drills at a firing exercise ground after Pyongyang's latest missile launch.

South Korea and the United States had discussed deploying additional "strategic assets" on the Korean peninsula, the presidential Blue House said in a statement, without giving any more details.

North Korea remained defiant.

"The US should know that it can neither browbeat the DPRK with any economic sanctions and military threats and blackmails nor make the DPRK flinch from the road chosen by itself," North Korea's official Rodong Sinmun said later on Tuesday, using the initials of the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, said he was "outraged at (the) reckless provocation by North Korea". He strongly condemned the "latest illegal missile launch". Theresa May is flying to Japan on Wednesday for trade talks.

Kim has overseen more than 80 missile tests - more than both his father and grandfather combined.

The regime fired several short-range projectiles into the sea off its east coast on Saturday in what was thought to be a response to US-South Korean joint military exercises.

Saturday's launch was the first since Pyongyang test-fired a intercontinental ballistic missiles on July 28 that could have been designed to reach 6,200 miles, putting parts of the US mainland within reach. The North Korean dictator threatened to target Guam, the US territory, with a missile.

Analysts speculate the North may have tested a Hwasong-12 missile, a new intermediate-range projectile that Pyongyang recently threatened to fire towards Guam.

The missile landed nowhere near Guam, which is about 1,550 miles south of Tokyo, but the length of Tuesday's launch may have been designed for the North to show it could follow through on its threat.

"The launch doubled as a threat to Washington, not only because of the US military bases in Japan, but also that the North showed it has the real capability to fire missiles to waters near Guam if it chose to shoot them in that direction," said Moon Seong Mook, a former South Korean military official and current analyst for the Seoul-based Korea Research Institute for National Strategy.

Seoul says the missile was launched from Sunan, which is where Pyongyang's international airport is, opening the possibility that North Korea launched a road-mobile missile from an airport runway.

North Korea fired what it said was a rocket carrying a communications satellite into orbit over Japan in 2009. The United States, Japan and South Korea considered it a ballistic missile test.

"It's pretty unusual," said Jeffrey Lewis, head of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of Strategic Studies in California. "North Korea's early space launches in 1998 and 2009 went over Japan, but that's not the same thing as firing a missile."

Television and radio broadcasters broke into their regular programming with a "J-Alert" warning citizens of the missile launch. Bullet train services were temporarily halted and warnings went out over loudspeakers in towns in Hokkaido.

"I was woken by the missile alert on my cellphone," said Ayaka Nishijima, 41, an office worker from Morioka, the capital of Iwate prefecture, 300 km (180 miles) south of Cape Erimo.

"I didn't feel prepared at all. Even if we get these alerts there's nowhere to run. It's not like we have a basement or bomb shelter, all we can do is get away from the window," she told Reuters by text message.

Global markets reacted to the escalation in tensions, buying safe-haven assets such as gold, the Swiss franc and the Japanese yen, and selling stocks. Japan's Nikkei 225 index fell almost 1 percent to a near four-month low, while South Korea's KOSPI index was down a similar percentage.

North Korea nuclear grid

5:41AM

North Korea 'will not flinch'

North Korea has issued a defiant message in response to warnings of further pressure from the US, Japan and South Korea.

"The US should know that it can neither browbeat the DPRK with any economic sanctions and military threats and blackmails nor make the DPRK flinch from the road chosen by itself," North Korea's official Rodong Sinmun said.

4:25AM

South Korea releases footage of new missiles

South Korea has released footage of its own missile tests it says were conducted last week in a response to the latest North Korean missile launch.

The South Korean military said on Tuesday it conducted three flight tests of two types of new missiles with ranges of 800 kilometers (497 miles) and 500 kilometers (310 miles) on August 24 and that the missiles were close to being operationally deployed.

The military released footage of the tests of the longer-range missile that showed the missile being fired from a truck-mounted launcher and hitting a land-based target.

South Korea hasn't officially named the missile yet, but it is tentatively called the Hyunmoo-2C.

The missile is considered a key component to the so-called "kill chain" pre-emptive strike capability the South is pursuing to cope with the North's growing nuclear and missile threat.

4:22AM

UN Security Council to hold meeting on Tuesday

The UN Security Council will hold an emergency meeting on Tuesday afternoon over North Korea's latest missile launch at the request of Japan and the United States, diplomats said.

The planned meeting in New York comes as Washington and Tokyo agreed to step up pressure on Pyongyang after it fired a ballistic missile over Japan and into the Pacific Ocean.

3:39AM

Town's loudspeakers fail to relay warning

Residents on the northernmost Japanese island of Hokkaido were warned of the North Korean missile launch by a "J-Alert" on their mobile phones, with loud alarms and an email that told people to stay indoors.

The system also is designed to kick in an automated voice repeating the warnings on area loudspeakers.

Hironori Matsuura, an official in the coastal town of Erimo, told AP the phone alarm worked but not the 50 speakers in the town.

Matsuura said people were stunned as this is the first time a North Korea missile is believed to have flown over Hokkaido. The town, which has about 4,800 residents, is checking on what went wrong with the speaker system.

"We all woke up," he said. "But there are no reports of any damage, and no one had to evacuate."

3:26AM

'There's nowhere to run'

The Japanese government's J-Alert system broke into radio and TV programming, warning citizens of the possible missile. Bullet train services were temporarily halted and warnings went out over loudspeakers in towns in Hokkaido.

"I was woken by the missile alert on my cellphone," said Ayaka Nishijima, 41, an office worker from Morioka, the capital of Iwate prefecture, 180 miles south of Cape Erimo.

"I didn't feel prepared at all. Even if we get these alerts there's nowhere to run. It's not like we have a basement or bomb shelter, all we can do is get away from the window," she told Reuters by text message.

2:51AM

Fighter jets conduct bombing drills

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and South Korea's foreign minister have agreed to consider tougher sanctions against North Korea following the latest launch.

Yoon Young-chan, a spokesman for the presidential Blue House in Seoul, also told a briefing that South Korean fighter jets conducted bombing drills at a firing exercise ground after Pyongyang's latest missile launch.

Separately, the South's Yonhap news agency cited an unidentified Blue House source as saying the US military was considering the deployment of strategic assets to the Korean peninsula.

2:48AM

Student says he woke to sirens

2:45AM

Trump and Abe discuss missile launch

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says he agreed with US President Donald Trump in telephone talks to increase pressure on North Korea after the country's latest missile launch.

Trump also said that the United States was "100 percent with Japan" and he showed a strong commitment to Tokyo's defence, Abe told reporters.

2:30AM

Possible military reaction

South Korea's Yonhap news agency says the top US and South Korean military officers agreed to make a strong response to North Korea's latest ballistic missile launch, including possible unspecified military measures.

The chairmen of both countries' Joint Chiefs of Staff agreed on a phone call "to take response measures at the earliest possible time that can demonstrate the alliance's strong will including military measures," Yonhap reported, quoting the South Korean military.

2:22AM

What was the missile fired?

A former South Korean military official who is now an analyst at Seoul's Institute for Far Eastern Studies says the early flight data suggests the North Korean missile was likely a Hwasong-12, a new intermediate range missile that the North has recently threatened to fire toward Guam.

Analyst Kim Dong-yub a tells AP there is also a possibility the missile could have been a midrange Musudan, a missile with a potential 3,500-kilometer (2,180-mile) range that puts much of the Asia-Pacific region within reach, or a Pukguksong-2, a solid-fuel missile that can be fired faster and more secretly than weapons using liquid fuel.

1:58AM

US, South Korea and Japan request UN Security Council meeting

The United States, Japan and South Korea have requested a United Nations Security Council meeting to discuss North Korea's firing of a missile over Japan, diplomats said, Reuters reports.

The 15-member Security Council was expected to be held late onTuesday.

1:26AM

S.Korea finance ministry to review stability measures if needed over N.Korea risks

South Korea's finance ministry said on Tuesday it will monitor financial markets around the clock and act according to its contingency plans to stabilise markets if needed after North Korea's latest missile test, Reuters reports.

"Our view is that we need to fully prepare and make stern responses to manage risks at home and abroad," the ministry said after a policy meeting with the Bank of Korea and financial regulators that was urgently called after the launch.

1:23AM

Nikkei falls to 4-month low

Japan's Nikkei share average fell to a near four-month low on Tuesday morning as sentiment following the missile incident.

In early trade, the Nikkei opened down 0.7 percent and fell as low as 19,304.76, its lowest since May 1.

The broader Topix dropped 0.5 percent to 1,592.77.

12:56AM

Abe to call for emergency UN security council meeting

Shinzo Abe, the Japanese prime minister, has said that Japan will call for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council meeting to discuss North Korea's latest missile launch. He added that Japan wants the UN to put additional pressure on North Korea, which may mean the imposition of more sanctions.

Tokyo on Friday imposed additional unilateral sanctions on North Korea, expanding its list of companies, organisations and individuals with links to the North that are having their assets in Japan frozen.

The list includes a number of Chinese companies, including the Bank of Dandong, which is accused of laundering money on behalf of Pyongyang, and Dalian Global Unity Shipping Co., which ships coal and steel products between North Korea and China.

12:55AM

Japan expects US to 'strongly protest' launch

Itsunori Onodera, the defence minister, said Tuesday morning that he expects the US to "strongly protest" North Korea's missile launch.

12:20AM

Abe: launch was 'unprecedented, serious and grave threat'

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday said North Korea's launch of a missile over its territory was an "unprecedented, serious and grave threat".

"Their outrageous act of firing a missile over our country is an unprecedented, serious and grave threat and greatly damages the regional peace and security," he told reporters.

11:53PM

NK warned UN on August 25

North Korea's mission to the United Nations submitted a letter to the UN Security Council on August 25 hinting at "tough countermeasures" and "catastrophic consequences" unless the council intervened to halt the Ulchi Freedom joint US-South Korea military exercises presently taking place in the South.

The letter warned:

11:44PM

Boris Johnson 'outraged' by 'latest illegal missile launch'

11:42PM

Officials warn of sixth underground nuclear test

The launch on Tuesday morning of a missile that crossed Japan may only be the first significant provocation from North Korea in response to the military exercises taking place in South Korea, with officials warning that Pyongyang may be preparing to carry out a sixth underground nuclear test.

South Korea's National Security Service has informed political leaders that it has detected preparations at the North's Punggye-ri proving grounds, where the previous five tests were conducted.

Kim Byung-kee, a member of South Korea's ruling Democratic Party, said the NIS reported that North Korea "has completed its preparation to carry out a nuclear test at tunnel two and tunnel three at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site".

He added the NIS said it had also detected activity suggesting tunnel four was being prepared for renewed development work after excavation work was halted last year.

Analysts suggest the test may be held close to September 9, a national holiday marking the founding of the republic and the date on which it conducted its last nuclear test, in 2016.

The North claimed that test was of a miniaturised nuclear warhead small enough to be fitted to an intercontinental ballistic missile, although analysts say it is impossible to verify that claim.

11:18PM

North Korea 'is showing no mercy'

The launch of the land-based missile comes two days after the Rodong Sinmun newspaper "ridiculed the US and its vassal forced for being flustered due to the ... pluck of the DPRK" in an editorial.

The article in the state-run publication added that North Korea is "showing no mercy".

"If the US persists in its reckless anti-DPRK moves, sanctions and pressure, it will eventually meet a miserable fate.

"So long as the US and its vassal forces persist with such actions and imperialism, the root cause of injustice and evil remains", it added. "The DPRK will further sharpen its just nuclear treasured sword in its hand and defend independence with nukes and usher in a new era of national prosperity".

11:11PM

Missile 'flew 1,650 miles'

South Korean military sources have reported that the missile flew a distance of around 1,650 miles and reached a maximum altitude on its lofted trajectory of 340 miles.

11:03PM

'A serious, grave security threat to Japan'

Yoshihide Suga, Japan's chief cabinet secretary, told a hastily called press conference that the missile fell into the ocean about 730 miles off Cape Erimo, in Hokkaido.

The missile launch poses "a serious, grave security threat to Japan", Suga said, adding that Japan would cooperate closely with the United States and South Korea to counteract the danger posed to the region by North Korea.

In Seoul, Moon Jae-in, the South Korean president, summoned an emergency meeting of the National Security Council.

10:49PM

Missile 'broke into three pieces and landed in the sea'

The missile broke into three pieces and fell into the waters off Japan's northern Hokkaido island.

The Japanese government's J-Alert warning system advised people in the area to take precautions.

The Japanese military did not attempt to shoot down the missile, which passed over Japanese territory around 6:06 a.m. time (2106 GMT).

10:28PM

Japan's Shinzo Abe vows to take utmost efforts to protect Japanese republic

Japan's prime minister has said he will take all precautions necessary to protect citizens.

"We will make utmost efforts to firmly protect the lives of the people," Abe told reporters in brief remarks as he entered his office for emergency meetings on the missile firing.

10:26PM

South Korea confirms missile launch

The North fired the "unidentified projectile" from Pyongyang at around 5:57 am (2057 GMT), according to the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff.

10:25PM

Missile 'passes over Japan'

Reports in Tokyo state that a missile fired from North Korea has passed over the country.

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