(Update 3) North Korea Fires Ballistic Missile

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
North Korean flags

North Korea launched a suspected ballistic missile at around 9:59 a.m. on Wednesday, the Japanese government announced.

The Defense Ministry said the missile was estimated to have fallen outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone in the Sea of Japan east of the Korean Peninsula at 11:15 a.m.

No damage to Japanese aircraft or ships has been confirmed so far.

The flight time was 74 minutes, the longest flight time on record for a North Korean missile.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the latest missile was launched near Pyongyang.

According to the Japanese Defense Ministry, the missile had an estimated range of about 550 kilometers. It is believed to have been launched at a high altitude and on a lofted trajectory. Missiles launched on a lofted trajectory are harder to intercept.

The ministry is looking into the missile’s performance.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said: “This is an unacceptable threat to the peace and security of the international community and a violation of relevant [U.N.] Security Council resolutions. It is a serious issue involving the safety of the public.”

Tokyo has lodged a protest with Pyongyang through diplomatic channels, Matsuno said.

On Monday and Tuesday, Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, alleged a U.S. military spy plane had entered North Korea’s EEZ and hinted at countermeasures.

Wednesday’s missile launch might have been an attempt by Pyongyang to boost its stature ahead of the 70th anniversary of the Korean War armistice agreement on July 27.

Positioning the day as the anniversary of its victory against the United States, North Korea might be hoping to bolster national unity in the country by heightening tensions.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who is in Lithuania to attend the North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit, instructed relevant ministries and agencies to do their utmost to gather and analyze information, and provide the public with prompt and accurate information. “North Korea’s actions threaten the peace and security of our country, the region and the international community, and cannot be tolerated by any means,” Kishida told reporters in Vilnius. “We will keep gathering information and vigilantly monitoring the situation, and take all possible measures to ensure peace and security through close cooperation among Japan, the United States and South Korea.”

A National Security Council meeting comprising officials from four ministries was held to discuss the situation.