North Korea fired an unidentified projectile from its capital Pyongyang that flew over Japan before plunging into the northern Pacific Ocean, officials said Tuesday, an especially aggressive test-flight that will rattle an already anxious region.
Seoul's Joint Chiefs of Staff on Tuesday said the missile traveled around 2,700 kilometres (1677 miles) and reached a maximum height of 550 kilometres (341 miles) as it flew over the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. The JCS said it is analysing the launch with the United States and also that South Korea's military has strengthened its monitoring and preparation in case of further actions from North Korea.
Japanese officials said there was no damage to ships or anything else reported. Japan's NHK TV said the missile separated into three parts.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters, "We will do our utmost to protect people's lives."
The launch comes days after the North fired what was assessed as three short-range ballistic missiles into the sea and a month after its second flight test of an intercontinental ballistic missile, which analysts say could reach deep into the US mainland when perfected.
North Korea typically reacts with anger to US-South Korean military drills, which are happening now, often staging weapons tests and releasing threats to Seoul and Washington in its state-controlled media. But animosity is higher than usual following threats by US.President Donald Trump to unleash "fire and fury" on the North, and Pyongyang's stated plan to consider firing some of its missiles toward Guam.
Pyongyang regularly argues that the US-South Korean military exercises are an invasion rehearsal. The allies say they are defensive and meant to counter North Korean aggression.
North Korea's UN ambassador, Ja Song Nam, wrote recently that the exercises are "provocative and aggressive" when the Korean peninsula is "like a time bomb."