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North Korea fires ballistic missile over Japan

PUBLISHED Thu, September 14, 2017 - 6:03pm EDT

North Korea has fired a ballistic missile that has flown over northern Japan, less than two weeks after the country carried out its sixth nuclear test, Japanese and South Korean officials say. Residents in Japan were briefly warned to seek shelter. (more)

The missile was launched at 6:27 a.m. local time on Friday from Sunan airfield near the capital Pyongyang, according to the South Korean military. The missile was launched towards the east and flew over the island of Hokkaido a short time later.

The missile reached an altitude of 770 kilometers (478 miles) and flew a distance of 3,700 kilometers (2,300 miles) before falling into the Pacific Ocean, South Korea said. This would make it an intermediate-range ballistic missile.

As a result of the launch, the Japanese government immediately activated the J-Alert warning system. Sirens were activated and residents in large parts of northern Japan were urged to evacuate and seek shelter in solid buildings or underground shelters. The warning was canceled after 7 minutes.

In a show of force, the South Korean military immediately launched two ballistic missiles into waters off its eastern coast, according to the Yonhap news agency. The missiles were fired just six minutes after North Korea's launch, demonstrating its readiness to respond immediately, the military said.

Both missiles were launched towards a simulated target about 250 kilometers (155 miles) away, which is the same distance as it would be to Sunan airfield. The first missile hit the target successfully but the second one failed and crashed into the water just seconds after launch, Yonhap reported.

Japan condemned the North's missile launch in the strongest terms and called it an "excessive provocation," according to the Kyodo news agency. U.S. President Donald Trump was briefed about the incident by his chief of staff, the White House said.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called on the international community, and in particular China and Russia, to increase sanctions against North Korea. "[This] represents the second time the people of Japan, a treaty ally of the United States, have been directly threatened in recent weeks," he said.

Tillerson added: "China supplies North Korea with most of its oil. Russia is the largest employer of North Korean forced labor. China and Russia must indicate their intolerance for these reckless missile launches by taking direct actions of their own."

The United Nations Security Council will hold an emergency meeting on North Korea's missile launch at 3 p.m. ET on Friday, according to diplomats. Earlier, the Japanese and South Korean governments both convened emergency meetings of their National Security Councils.

Friday's missile launch came less than two weeks after North Korea carried out its sixth nuclear test, and just days after the United Nations responded by imposing a new round of sanctions. It further followed a missile launch on August 28 which also flew over northern Japan.

Although North Korea regularly carries out missile tests, its missiles are typically fired into extremely high altitudes to avoid reaching Japan. Since 1998, only three North Korean missiles have been flown over Japan, including one in 2009 when North Korea tried to launch a satellite into space.

The latest events follow months of escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula, fueled by North Korea's frequent missile tests and its advancing nuclear weapons program, as well as U.S. military exercises and threatening statements by President Donald Trump.

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