North Korea fires more ballistic missiles, residents of Japan told to evacuate
TOKYO/SEOUL, Nov 3 (Reuters) – North Korea fired multiple ballistic missiles on Thursday, including one that prompted residents in parts of central and northern Japan to seek shelter, the latest in a record year of missile tests by the nuclear-armed North. .
Despite the government’s initial warning that the missile had flown over Japan, Tokyo later said this was false.
The launches came a day after North Korea fired at least 23 missilesthe most in one day, including the one that first landed off the coast of South Korea.
Residents of Miyagi, Yamagata and Niigata prefectures in northern Japan were warned Thursday to seek shelter indoors, according to the J-Alert Emergency Broadcasting System.
Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said the government had lost track of the first missile over the Sea of Japan, prompting it to correct its earlier announcement that it had flown over Japan.
“We detected a launch that showed the potential to fly over Japan and therefore triggered a J Alert, but after checking the flight we confirmed that it did not fly over Japan,” Hamada told reporters.
The first missile flew to an altitude of about 2,000 kilometers and a range of 750 kilometers, he said. Such a flight pattern is called an “elevated trajectory,” in which the missile is fired high into space to avoid flying over neighboring countries.
In brief comments to reporters minutes later, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said: “North Korea’s repeated missile launches are a shame and absolutely unforgivable.”
About half an hour after the launch was first announced, Japan’s coast guard said the missile had gone down.
Yonhap news agency reported that the first missile had undergone phase separation, suggesting it could be a long-range weapon such as an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff announced that a long-range missile was launched from near the North Korean capital, Pyongyang.
About an hour after the first launch, the South Korean military and the Japanese coast guard reported a second and third launch from North Korea. South Korea said both short-range missiles were fired from Kaechon, north of Pyongyang.
Afterwards North Korean launches on Wednesday, including one missile that landed less than 60 km (40 miles) off South Korea’s coast, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol described the flights as “territorial encroachment” and Washington condemned them as “reckless”.
South Korea issued rare air strike warnings and launched its own missiles in response after Wednesday’s barrage.
The launches came after Pyongyang demanded the United States and South Korea halt large-scale military exercises, saying such “military rashness and provocations can no longer be tolerated.”
The allies are conducting one of the largest air exercises ever, with hundreds of South Korean and US warplanes, including F-35 fighters, flying simulated missions around the clock.
On October 4, North Korea launched a ballistic missile over Japan for the first time in five years, prompting a warning for residents there to take cover. It was the furthest North Korea has ever fired a missile.
Reporting by Kantoro Komiya in Tokyo and Hyonhee Shin and Josh Smith in Seoul Editing by Chris Reese, Lincoln Feast and Gerry Doyle
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