North Korea yesterday conducted its longest-ever weapons test — a nuclear-capable ballistic missile that flew over Japan and could reach the US Pacific territory of Guam and beyond, forcing the Japanese government to issue evacuation alerts and halt trains.
The South Korean and US militaries responded by launching fighter jets that fired weapons at a target off South Korea’s west coast in a show of strength against North Korea.
In Taipei, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Joanne Ou (歐江安) said that Taiwan is concerned by and strongly condemns “yet another irresponsible action” by North Korea, which contravenes UN Security Council prohibitions and undermines regional peace and stability.
Photo: AFP / South Korean Ministry of National Defense
Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) called Japan’s top envoy to Taiwan Hiroyasu Izumi early yesterday to convey the government’s and public’s support for Tokyo, Ou said.
As an important member of the Indo-Pacific region, Taiwan is willing to work with the international community on related measures and cooperate with like-minded countries to ensure regional peace and security, including on the Korean Peninsula, Ou said.
The missile launch was North Korea’s most provocative weapons demonstration this year, as it pushes to develop a fully fledged nuclear arsenal capable of threatening the US mainland and its allies with the goal of wresting concessions from those countries, some experts say.
Photo: AFP / South Korean Ministry of National Defense
Condemning the North’s “dangerous and reckless” action to launch what it described as a “long-range ballistic missile” over Japan, US National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a statement: “The United States will continue its efforts to limit [North Korea’s] ability to advance its prohibited ballistic missile and weapons of mass destruction programs, including with allies and UN partners.”
South Korea and Japan earlier said the missile had an intermediate or longer range. The launch is the fifth round of weapons tests by North Korea in the past 10 days.
The testing spree is an apparent response to two sets of military drills — one between the US and South Korea, and the other involving Washington, Seoul and Tokyo — off the Korean Peninsula’s east coast last week.
Japanese authorities alerted residents in its northeastern regions to evacuate to shelters, in the first “J-alert” since 2017 when North Korea fired an intermediate-range Hwasong-12 missile twice over Japan in a span of weeks during a previous run of weapons tests.
Trains were suspended in the Hokkaido and Aomori regions until the government issued a notice that the North Korean missile appeared to have landed in the Pacific.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters that the launch “is a reckless act and I strongly condemn it.”
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol said North Korea’s “reckless nuclear provocations” would meet a stern response from the South and the broader international community.
The military separately warned that North Korea’s repeated missile launches would deepen its international isolation and prompt Seoul and Washington to bolster their deterrence capacities.
Later yesterday, four US F-16 jets and four South Korean F-15s conducted a joint strike drill in which one of the South Korean planes fired two precision-guided joint direct attack munition bombs into an island target.
The exercise was aimed at demonstrating the allies’ ability to accurately strike North Korean targets with “overwhelming force,” the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
The North Korean missile fired from its northern province bordering China traveled 4,500km to 4,600km at a maximum altitude of 970km to 1,000km, South Korean and Japanese estimates showed.
Japanese Minister of Defense Yasukazu Hamada said it landed in the Pacific about 3,200km off the northern Japanese coast and that there were no reports of damage to Japanese aircraft or ships.
Additional reporting by CNA
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