North Korea missile launch sparks warning of Japan evacuation

Seoul and Tokyo

North Korea fired at least one unidentified ballistic missile on Thursday local time, which landed in the waters east of the peninsula, according to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS).

The launch sparked warnings in northern Japan’s Miyagi, Yamagata and Niigata prefectures.

“Missile fired. Missile fired. A missile is believed to have been fired from North Korea. Please evacuate to buildings or underground,” Japan’s prime minister’s office tweeted.

Minutes later, the tweet was followed by another: “The missile passed. The missile passed. The missile is believed to have entered the Pacific Ocean around 7:48am. If you see anything suspicious, please stay away and get in touch immediately. Police or Fire Department.”

Japan’s prime minister’s office initially said it had flown over the island, but after analysis, Japan’s defense ministry said it had not.

The launch brings North Korea’s number of missile launches this year to 30, including ballistic and cruise missiles. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will meet South Korean Foreign Minister Lee Jong-sub at the Pentagon hours earlier.

Thursday’s launch also followed a flurry of North Korean missiles earlier this week that it fired after an angry warning about a massive joint military exercise called “Vigilance Storm” involving the United States and South Korea. The exercises, which began on Monday, involved 240 aircraft and “thousands of service members” from both countries, according to the Pentagon.

North Korea fired at least 23 different types of short-range missiles into the east and west of the Korean peninsula on Wednesday, according to South Korea’s Defense Ministry.

According to the JCS, it was the largest number of short-range missile launches by North Korea in a single day, including a ballistic missile that landed near South Korean territorial waters for the first time since the North’s split.

The missile hit international waters 167 kilometers (104 miles) northwest of South Korea’s Ulleungdo Island and about 26 kilometers south of the Northern Limit Line (NLL) — the de facto inter-Korean maritime border that North Korea does not recognize.

Seoul responded by firing three air-to-surface missiles from F-15K and KF-16 fighter jets, targeting the same distance north of the NLL.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters on Wednesday that North Korea was firing missiles at an “unprecedented high frequency.”

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., condemned North Korea’s unprecedented missile launch and told CNN that the U.N. would “pressurize” China and Russia to improve and strengthen such sanctions.

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