The Japanese government issued an alert early this Tuesday morning (4) at local time, still Monday night (3) in Brazil, asking part of the population to seek shelter. The alert was sent moments after the country reported the launch of a ballistic missile by North Korea.
According to the prime minister’s office, the artifact flew over Japanese territory before falling into the waters of the Pacific Ocean, about 3,000 kilometers off the country’s coast, without the need for interception. South Korea also accused Pyongyang of launching a missile.
“North Korea appears to have launched a missile. Please go inside a building or basement,” warned a Japanese television station. After the launch, the Japanese government suspended rail service in the north of the country and called for the evacuation of part of the island of Hokkaido and the city of Aomori – it is uncertain how many residents affected by the decision.
This is the first time Japan has issued such a warning since September 2017, when another ballistic missile fired by Pyongyang crossed the country. According to The New York Times, the artifact’s trajectory took 17 minutes, leaving Mupyong-ri, near the Chinese border, and crossing Japanese territory at 7:22 am local time. He would have traveled for 4,600 km, at an altitude of 1,000 km.
It was at least Pyongyang’s fifth release in a week. The series kicked off amid US Vice President Kamala Harris’ visit to South Korea last week. At the time, the American was in the demilitarized zone that divides the two Koreas – 240 kilometers long, the area was established in the 1950s – and called North Korea “a country with a brutal dictatorship, with an illegal program of weapons and human rights violations”.
Washington and Seoul also hold military exercises in the region. This Friday (7), the naval forces of Tokyo should participate in the activities.
“North Korea’s series of actions, including its repeated launches of ballistic missiles, threaten the peace and security of Japan, the region and the international community,” said Japanese government spokesman Hirokazu Matsuno. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida called the launch barbaric and said Tokyo would continue to gather information about the episode.
Hours earlier, Kishida had told the Japanese parliament he was working hard to normalize diplomatic relations with Pyongyang. He said his government seeks to “put our sad past behind us” and is ready for a meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un without preconditions.
To the Reuters news agency, the Japanese defense minister did not rule out a possible counterattack. “In light of this situation, we will continue to examine all options,” said Yasukazu Hamad. Seoul said Tuesday’s launch will only strengthen military ties with Washington and Tokyo.
Experts have speculated for months that North Korea is preparing a nuclear test – the last one took place in 2017, a year before Kim signed a vague declaration calling for the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. This year alone, Pyongyang has launched at least 23 ballistic missiles.
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