North Korea launches ballistic missile toward sea

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North Korea launched a ballistic missile towards the sea between the Korean peninsula and Japan on Thursday, prompting Japan to order residents on an island to take shelter as a precaution.

South Korea’s joint Chiefs of Staff said the North Korean missile flew toward the waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan but gave no further details, such as how far it flew and exactly what type of weapon the North launched.

The launch had prompted the Japanese government to urge people to seek shelter on the northernmost island of Hokkaido.

Japanese media later reported the Japanese government retracted the alert and emergency notice to local governments, saying there was no possibility of a missile landing in the Hokkaido area.

North Korea
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

Japan issued a similar evacuation order in October last year when a North Korean intermediate-range missile flew over Japan in a launch that demonstrated a potential to reach the US Pacific Territory of Guam.

This year, North Korea has launched about 30 missiles in response to South Korean-US military drills it views as a rehearsal for an invasion.

South Korean and US officials say their drills are defensive in nature and were arranged to respond to North Korea’s growing nuclear and missile threats.

During a military meeting on Monday, Mr Kim reviewed the country’s frontline attack plans and various combat documents and stressed the need to bolster his nuclear deterrent with “increasing speed on a more practical and offensive” manner, according to North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

KCNA said that meeting discussed unspecified issues related to strengthening defence capacities and perfecting war preparations to counter the threat posed by its rivals’ military drills.

North Korea has long argued that US-led military exercises in the region are proof of Washington’s hostility against Pyongyang.

The North has said it was compelled to develop nuclear weapons to deal with US military threats, though US and South Korean officials have steadfastly said they have no intention of invading the North.

There are concerns that North Korea could conduct its first nuclear test in more than five years since it unveiled a new type of nuclear warhead earlier this month. Foreign experts debate whether North Korea has developed warheads small and light enough to fit on missiles.

Thursday’s launch also came as South Korea accused North Korea of not responding to South Korean calls on a set of cross-border inter-Korean hotlines for about a week.

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