North Korea's Hwasong-12 Missile Travels Over Japan in Longest Test Flight; Tokyo Issues Alert

North Korea fired a ballistic missile over Japan on Tuesday, prompting Tokyo to issue an alert asking residents to move to shelter. The ballistic missile passed over Japan and landed in the Pacific ocean after travelling 4,500 km.

Nuclear armed North Korea has been ratcheting up tension in the region for long, but this appears to be the most daring act of provocation by Kim Jong-un in recent times. It is the first time in four years that Pyongyang is firing a missile over the territory of Japan.

North Korea missile launch
North Korea missile launch Twitter

Symbolic Importance

In more symbolic importance, the missile traveled long enough to have landed on the US island of Guam if it had taken a different trajectory. Kim had time and again warned Washington that his country was capable of hitting a US target.

According to South Korean military leadership, appeared to have launched an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM). South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said the missile was launched from North Korea's Jagang Province.

Hwasong-12 IRBM

Military strategists believe the missile could be the Hwasong-12 IRBM, which North Korea unveiled in 2017. Hwasong-12 has a special place in the scheme of things at Pyongyang, which has projected this rocket as capable of striking the US military bases in Guam.

In the immediate aftermath of the missile launch, the Japanese government warned citizens to take cover. Around 7:30 local time, Japan's missile alert warning system was activated. "North Korea appears to have launched a missile. Please evacuate into buildings or underground," the alert read.

North Korea test-fires newly developed hypersonic missile
North Korea test-fires newly developed hypersonic missile Hwasong-8 Reuters

Longest Missile Test Flight

Japan said it was perhaps the longest a North Korea missile had travelled in a test flight. North Korea had fired the Hwasong-12 in 2017 on a test flight over Japan.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said North Korea's move was a "barbaric" act. Tokyo said while it did not shoot down the missile, it would not rule out any option in future. Defence Minister Yasukazu Hamada said Japan would increase counterattack capabilities. South Korea also said it was boosting its military capabilities. President Yoon Suk-yeol said the missile launch was a "reckless" act. He said Seoul would give a decisive response to the provocative act.

The US also condemned the missile launch. "This action is destabilizing and shows the DPRK's blatant disregard for United Nations Security Council resolutions and international safety norms," US National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said, according to Channel News Asia.

Kim Jong Un
Kim Jong Un criticized the US for hostile actions and stated that his country is beefing up its military capabilities to preserve national sovereignty Twitter

First Time After 2017

The North Korean missile launch appears to be Pyongyang's answer to the increasing military ties between Japan, South Korea and the US. Last week, the allies conducted naval exercises, which was a first after 2017 joint exercise. North Korean dictator Kim is easily provoked and spooked by these naval drills, which he interprets as preparations for war against his country. North Korea has fired two missiles over Japan after the allies conducted a joint drill in 2017.