Tension escalates as North Korea fires missile over Japan; people go underground

Japan urged residents to take shelter early on Tuesday morning after North Korea fired a ballistic missile without warning over the country for the first time in five years. It is the first North Korean missile launch over Japan since 2017, according to BBC. The development is likely to prompt “potentially dangerous” escalation of recent weapons tests by the Kim Jong Un regime.

Provocative move

The move has heightened tensions as North Korea’s weapon system tests are designed to target regional US allies. It is also likely to prompt immediate backlash from Japan and South Korea. The BBC reported that most countries avoid doing it completely as it can easily be mistaken for an attack. The launch comes amid a spate of missile tests, with five launches in the past 10 days, and follows renewed military drills between the United States and its regional allies. It’s also the most notable test since January when its Hwasong-12 missile—capable of reaching the US’s Guam—was fired. However, three countries – US, Japan and Australia – conducted naval exercises together for the first time since 2017, which possibly antagonized North Korea. Kim Jong-un views the exercises as proof that his enemies are preparing for war, according to a BBC report.

Reasons behind the escalation

The North’s tests may be a response to the US and South Korea’s bilateral military exercises and other drills involving Japan last week. Pyongyang reportedly sees them as “invasion” rehearsals. It may also be Kim’s attempt to expand his nuclear arsenal and apply pressure on the US to accept North Korea as a nuclear state in order to lift international sanctions against his country.


Citizens told to go underground

In a statement, Japan’s coastguard said the missile appeared to have already landed in the sea and warned vessels not to approach any falling objects. Japanese officials issued a “J-alert” for residents in northeastern regions, urging them to evacuate or go underground. BBC reported North Korea’s early morning missile launch triggered a warning from Japanese officials. People were asked to take cover, and train services were suspended. Japan’s government issued a rare alert at 7:29 am (local time), saying, “North Korea appears to have launched a missile. Please evacuate into buildings or underground.”

Flouted UN rules, reacts US

 “The firing…is a reckless act, and I strongly condemn it,” Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said. Furthermore, United Nations (UN) has prohibited North Korea from such missile tests. US National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson will be convening a National Security Council meeting on Tuesday, calling the move “dangerous and reckless decision” that was “destabilising” to the region. However, North Korea regularly defies the ban on nuclear and missile tests, saying it needs to bolster its defences. According to CNN, South Korean and US officials have been warning since May that North Korea may be preparing for a nuclear test, with satellite imagery showing activity at its underground nuclear test site.


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