On Tuesday, North Korea fired a missile over the Japanese mainland that broke into three pieces before landing in the sea. Japan issued a warning that instructed citizens in the northern territories to take cover in basements.
The launch, which has been confirmed by the Pentagon, traveled around 1,700 miles and reached an altitude of 350 miles. Its trajectory took it directly over Japan’s Hokkaido island.
This move has sparked international condemnation from all sides and has increased tensions in the area that were already high.
Although the Japanese military made no attempts to shoot down the missile, the government’s response has been fierce:
“We will do our utmost to protect people’s lives,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters. “This reckless act of launching a missile that flies over our country is an unprecedented, serious and important threat.”
After a long phone call with President Donald Trump, Prime Minister Abe said: “We must immediately hold an emergency meeting at the United Nations, and further strengthen pressure against North Korea.”
North Korean official, Rodong Sinmun, further exacerbated the already dangerous situation by issuing what many describe as a “barely veiled threat”: “The US 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.”
Moon Seong Mook, a former South Korean Military official and analyst pointed out that this was a clear warning:
The launch doubled as a threat to Washington, not only because of the US military bases in Japan but also that the North showed it has the real capability to fire missiles to waters near Guam if it chose to shoot them in that direction.
Rupert Wingfield-Hayes in Tokyo for the BBC gave an analysis of the motivation behind the launch:
Why has North Korea chosen to do this now? Firstly to demonstrate resolve. It shows the regime in Pyongyang is not intimidated by American threats and has not “backed down”, as President Trump suggested two weeks ago.
Secondly, Pyongyang needs to test its new missile on a more realistic trajectory. Thirdly, such a test puts a strain on the US-Japan relationship. It makes Japan feel extremely vulnerable and tests US resolve.
World leaders have been quick to condemn the missile launch, with some issuing statement including the words “reckless” and unprecedented.” It is unknown what the full extent of the “political answer” will yet be, but the world is watching.