North Korea fired an intermediate-range ballistic missile over Japan on Tuesday, prompting Tokyo to activate the country’s missile alert system and order people to take shelter.
The last time North Korea fired a missile over Japan was in 2017, at the height of a period of “fire and fury” when Pyongyang’s leader Kim Jong Un traded insults with then-US president Donald Trump.
“Specific details are under close analysis by South Korean and US intelligence,” the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff added in a statement.
Yoon “ordered a stern response and to take corresponding measures in cooperation with the United States and the international community”, his office said in a statement.
Tokyo also confirmed the launch of an IRBM, activating the country’s missile alert warning system and urging people to take shelter.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters that the launch was “an act of violence following recent repeated launches of ballistic missiles. We strongly condemn this.”
If so, the flight distance, which Tokyo estimated at 4,600 kilometres, was thought to be a new record for that particular type of missile.
“This is the 8th test of the Hwasong-12 and the 3rd time it has overflown Japan,” Jeffrey Lewis of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies wrote on Twitter.
“Sullivan reinforced the United States’ ironclad commitments to the defense of Japan and the ROK (South Korea),” national security spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said in a statement.
With talks long-stalled, nuclear-armed North Korea has doubled down on Kim’s military modernisation plans this year, testing a string of banned weaponry, including an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) also for the first time since 2017.
Pyongyang’s latest bout of intense weapons testing comes as Seoul, Tokyo and Washington ramp up joint military drills to counter growing threats from the North.
Such drills infuriate North Korea, which sees them as rehearsals for an invasion.
Washington has stationed about 28,500 troops in South Korea to help protect it from the North.
Firing a missile over Japan represented a “significant escalation” by North Korea, said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.
“The Kim regime is developing weapons such as tactical nuclear warheads and submarine-launched ballistic missiles as part of a long-term strategy to outrun South Korea in an arms race and drive wedges among US allies.”
North Korea, which is under multiple UN sanctions for its weapons programmes, typically seeks to maximise the geopolitical impact of its tests with careful timing.