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North Korea Fires Ballistic Missile Over Japan in Major Escalation

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TOKYO — Alerts have started going off on mobile phones, radios and public speakers in northern Japan. At 7:30 a.m. Tuesday morning, she warned residents to evacuate as North Korea launched a missile over North Korea for the first time in five years.

Kazuyuki Tsuchiya, 72, who runs a small village inn on Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido, said, “I can’t get used to that sound. It scares me so much.”

Over the past year, North Korea’s missile provocations have become so frequent that 23 nuclear weapons tests, including four last week, have taken place since January, ignoring much of the public’s attention. But Tuesday’s flyover saw alarm bells wake residents from their sleep and remind them of a rogue nuclear threat in an area already unresolved by recent Chinese military exercises near Taiwan.

Similar alarms sounded in Japan in 2017, a year in which North Korean leader Kim Jong-un seemed intent on conflict. However, the international situation has changed significantly since then. With a reluctant president in the White House and President Vladimir V. Putin issuing a veiled threat to use tactical nuclear weapons, the world is engrossed in Russia’s war in Ukraine. The global economy is suffering from energy shortages, inflation and the effects of the prolonged coronavirus pandemic. Neither China nor Russia are likely to cooperate with the United Nations on sanctions.

Against this backdrop, North Korea has launched missile after missile with little impunity as Washington repeats its offer to return to the negotiating table, while keeping its sights primarily on Moscow and Beijing. , struggling to regain its place in the limelight.

Tuesday’s intermediate-range ballistic missile launch flew about 2,800 miles, according to officials in Tokyo and Seoul. South Korean officials said the missile reached an altitude of 602 miles. Its trajectory indicated it was more powerful than the Hwasong-12, an intermediate-range ballistic missile North Korea tested in 2017. It was suggested that the missile could reach Guam, which is the “enveloping flame” five years ago.

When North Korea tested a similar missile in 2017, President Donald J. Trump sent B-1B supersonic bombers and other fighter jets close to North Korea to send Kim on a “suicide mission.” called “Rocket Man”. Kim responded by test-launching an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of delivering nuclear warheads to the US mainland.

North Korea appears to be following a strategy similar to the one Kim used when Trump detonated an underground nuclear bomb in 2017, promising to unleash “fire and fury” against an isolated nation. . Analysts and government officials in Tokyo, Seoul and Washington are gearing up for yet another nuclear test, but their reaction has been more muted.

South Korea’s president Yoon Suk-yeol’s office said North Korea’s continued provocations “will not be ignored” and that North Korea “must pay a price,” but its ability to punish North Korea has been more limited. Limited. China and Russia, members of the UN Security Council exercising veto power.

After North Korea resumed intercontinental ballistic missile tests in March, Washington introduced a new UN resolution imposing additional sanctions on North Korea, but the effort was halted by China and Russia.

Experts said a quieter approach to North Korea’s aggression could be justified.

“We should not react directly. Told. “Otherwise, we’re doing what North Korea wants us to do, and we don’t want to do it.”

The medium-range missile was launched from Mupyeong-ri, near North Korea’s central border with China, on Tuesday, according to South Korea’s military. Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu said. It crashed about 1,864 miles (3,000 km) east of the archipelago, outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone, which extends 200 nautical miles from the coast.

Tsuchiya, the owner of an inn in Hokkaido, was eating breakfast with his guests when an alarm sounded. But he could not think how he should heed the warning to take refuge in a safe haven. “There is nothing I can do,” he said. “The government says ‘evacuate’, but where? There are no solid buildings in this village. There is nowhere to run.”

Tuesday’s test was a direct response to South Korea’s recent moves to strengthen its alliance with the United States and improve ties with Japan, a former colonial ruler with a long-standing historic dispute with South Korea. It may have been a serious challenge.

North Korea has accused the United States and its allies of plotting to invade the isolated country. Kim Jong Un stepped up his nuclear policy in an address to the National Assembly last month, saying North Korea would never give up its nuclear weapons as long as the United States and South Korea continued their joint military exercises.

In response to the launch, four South Korean F-15K jets and four U.S. Air Force F-16 jets conducted a joint exercise, firing two bombs at targets off South Korea’s west coast on Tuesday afternoon. The exercise demonstrated the allies’ ability to accurately hit North Korea’s missile launch sites.

South Korea’s defense ministry said Wednesday that U.S. and South Korean forces launched four MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System surface-to-surface missiles off South Korea’s east coast in a joint exercise. Another South Korean ballistic missile fell shortly after takeoff during an exercise, but South Korean defense officials suffered no casualties.

During an Armed Forces Day ceremony in Seoul on Saturday, South Korea released footage of a ballistic missile intended to penetrate an underground bunker. conducted its first trilateral anti-submarine and missile tracking exercise since 2017 to demonstrate the forces that may have caused the

In a series of phone calls, US officials discussed the missile launch with their counterparts.President Biden phone Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said North Korea’s weapons tests were “a danger to the Japanese people” and “destabilize the region”.

Secretary of State Antony J. Brinken had separate calls with Japan’s Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi and South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin to assure both ambassadors of Washington’s “ironproof” commitment to the region. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III also held a telephone conversation with the Secretary of Defense. Korea’s Lee Jong-seop When Yasukazu Hamada from Japanpledged further “bilateral and trilateral defense cooperation” with both countries.

Hayashi told Blinken that Japan was “determined” to strengthen its defense capabilities. Japan and South Korea are increasingly aware of the need to strengthen their own deterrence, rather than relying solely on their alliance with the United States.

Tuesday’s North Korea missile alert will certainly help Japanese lawmakers “advocating a significant increase in the defense budget and a more aggressive defense policy,” said a professor of international relations at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies. Shigenari Michishita said. Tokyo.

The last time a North Korean missile flew over Japan was on September 15, 2017, when the Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile was launched. The missile flew him 2,300 miles and struck waters 1,370 miles east of Hokkaido.

Washington and Seoul have been warning for months that North Korea is preparing another nuclear test. I’m here.

Experts suggest North Korea will wait until after the Chinese Communist Party Congress in mid-October to conduct its next nuclear test, but it is doubtful Kim was in the midst of a serious escalation. there was no room for

“The Kim regime is developing weapons such as tactical nuclear warheads and submarine-launched ballistic missiles as part of a long-term strategy to overtake South Korea in the arms race and drive a wedge among U.S. allies,” said Leif Eric.・Professor Easley holds a Ph.D. in International Studies from Ewha Womans University, Seoul.

In northern Japan, residents continued their military service after the morning shock.

Wataru Yamazaki, 29, was working at a port in Hachinohe, Aomori Prefecture, on the northeastern coast of Japan’s main island, when an alarm rang on his mobile phone. He quickly checked the safety of his four ferries owned by the company he works for.

Yamazaki said he believed Japan’s defense equipment would protect the archipelago. “I thought it was very unlikely that a missile would hit Japan,” he said. “So I didn’t really care.”

Motoko Rich Report from Tokyo and Choi Sang Hoon Born in Seoul. Hida Hikari When Hisako Ueno Contributed a report from Tokyo.

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