North Korea, in an act of escalation, fired a missile over Japan early Tuesday morning. The missile flew over the northern island of Hokkaido and traveled 1,700 miles before landing in the sea. The launch is being considered as the first instance of North Korea firing a mid-range ballistic missile over Japan with capabilities of carrying a nuclear payload.
The missile was fired at 6 a.m. Japanese local time. The upgraded Japanese missile defense system kicked into action, and a message was sent warning the people to take cover, as reported by CNN. The same message was also broadcasted via public television. Bullet trains were also halted to prevent any untoward incident. After the missile had passed over Japan, another message asking the citizens to report anything suspicious was also communicated.
North Korea’s launch of the missile over Japan is only the third such instance in history. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in a statement, “North Korea’s reckless action of launching a missile that passed over Japan is an unprecedented, serious and grave threat.” Apart from Japan, this launch also poses a challenge to President Trump who had recently threatened to rain down “fire and fury” on North Korea.
Reports suggest that the North Korean missile that flew over Japan was a Hwasong-12, an intermediate range ballistic missile technically capable of flying 3,000 miles. These missiles are capable of hitting the U.S. territory of Guam. It is believed that Tuesday’s launch indicated that North Korea could follow through on its threat of hitting U.S. territories.
The threat is even bigger for the U.S. as the new launch makes one of the longstanding American contingency plans useless. As reported by Telegraph, for the first time ever, North Korea fired a missile from a highly populated area of Pyongyang. Reports suggest that the missile was launched from Sunan near the Pyongyang International Airport. This renders the U.S. plan of pre-emptive strike useless.
Interestingly, Donald Trump had said recently that the North Korean leader had started respecting the U.S., as reported by the New York Times. Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson had also cited the brief pause in missile testing as a pathway to dialogue. A few days after the statement, Pyongyang launched three short range missiles before the escalation on Tuesday.
South Korea responded by flying four F-15K and conducting a bombing drill. It was aimed at testing the “capability to destroy the North Korean leadership” in the event of an emergency. Donald Trump and Shinzo Abe had a 40-minute phone call where they agreed to call a UN emergency meeting to discuss the situation.
Experts believe that the missile launch was aimed at the U.S. and President Trump. It was meant to serve as a warning that North Korea was capable of striking Guam. According to Tim Marshall, a foreign affairs expert, “They have made this massive gamble, it is pretty close to the brink of World War 3. When you get close to the brink, anything can happen.”
Can President Donald Trump do something and prevent WW3? Let us know your views in the comments section below.
[Featured Image by Wong Maye-E, Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Images]