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PM Shinzo Abe calls it “unprecedented threat”

In another drastic move North Korea has fired a missile flying over Japan early on Tuesday causing nervousness in Hokkaido island residents, who woke up with siren sound and warning test messages on their mobiles. People were advised to evacuate and take shelter in basements of sturdy buildings.

This was first time when North Korea, headed by Kim Jong-un, has successfully fired a missile over Japan since 1998, when it sent a missile launch vehicle over the country. It came days after Pyongyang test fired three short range ballistic missiles in the waters off Korean peninsula.

Reacting to the development, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe denounced the North Korean move calling it the “most serious and grave” threat.  He said, “We will do our utmost to protect people’s lives. This reckless act of launching a missile that flies over our country is an unprecedented, serious and important threat.”

Japanese PM also called US President Donald Trump and conversed with him for 40-minutes. The two leaders agreed to call for an immediate emergency UN Security Council meeting “and increase the pressure towards North Korea.”  Trump reiterated that US “stands with Japan 100%.”

The Japanese government sent two text messages to its citizens in the region within ten minutes. At 6.02 am, the first message said, “Missile launched. Missile launched. It seems that the missile has been launched from North Korea. Please evacuate to building with strong structure or go to the basement.”  Within ten minutes another message was sent to the population saying, “Missile passed. Missile passed. A minute ago, the missile seems to have passed the airspace of this area. If you find anything suspicious, please don’t come close to it, report to the police and firefighter directly.”

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yeshihide Suga, while addressing an emergency press conference said, “There is no immediate report of the fallen objects and no damage to the ships and aircraft.” The Japanese military made no attempt to shoot down the unidentified missile, but condemned the launch in the strongest terms possible.

The missile was launched near the North Korean capital of Pyongyang, which is rare. It was fired just before 6 a.m. in Japan which flew over Erimomisaki on the northern island of Hokkaido and broke into three pieces at about 1,180 kms off the Japanese coast. It took 15 minutes to reach 2700 kms.

However, South Korea, the US ally, responded by conducting a bombing drill at 9.30 am (local time) to test its “capability to destroy the North Korean leadership” in case of emergency, a Defense Ministry official was quoted.

Yoon Young-chan, the Head of South Korea’s Presidential Public Affairs office, told the reporters that four F-15K fighter jets dropped eight one ton MK-48 bombs at a shooting range. The operation was meant to showcase a strong punishment capability against North, he said.

Meanwhile, Rodong Sinmun, North Korea’s official newspaper on Tuesday said, “The U.S. should know that it can neither browbeat the DPRK with any economic sanctions and military threats and blackmails nor make the DPRK flinch from the road chosen by itself.”

It further said, “Many countries gave up their choices under the U.S.-dominated world order, stepped back again and again and fell victim to the aggression at last.”  “The U.S. has gone so foolish as to force the DPRK to do so. The U.S. should clearly understand its rival. Its threats may work on some countries, and some others have yielded to the bluffing of the U.S.”

The Korean conflict is based on the division between Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in the north and the Republic of Korea in the south. Both claim to be the government of the whole country. During the cold war North was backed by the erstwhile Soviet Union, China and other communist countries. South Korea was backed by US and its allies including Japan. The division of the peninsula was occurred at the end of World War II in 1945.

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