Near miss: North Korean missile ‘fell just 200km from Japanese coast, closer than ever before’
Japan believes one of the ballistic missiles test-fired by North Korea earlier in the week may have come closer to its coast than any other missile launched by Pyongyang in the past, splashing down just 200km out to sea, a Japanese government source said Thursday.
The missile, one of four launched nearly simultaneously Monday morning from North Korea’s northwest, fell into the Sea of Japan around 200km north-northwest of the Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa Prefecture, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a press conference.
“The latest launch again clearly shows that North Korea’s threat is at a new phase,” Suga said. “The government will continue to closely coordinate with the United States, South Korea and other related countries to strongly urge North Korea to exercise restraint.”
Defense Minister Tomomi Inada told a parliamentary committee that the government is analysing whether the spot that the missile fell was the closest to Japan that a North Korean missile has come down.
While one of the three missiles that North Korea fired on September 5 last year also fell around 200 kilometres from Japan, the government source said it is highly likely that Monday’s missile came closer to the country.
The government estimates that all four missiles fell into the sea at distances of around 200 to 450 km off the peninsula, the source said.
Concerning the type of the missile, Suga said they are presumed to be an improved version of a Scud type or the Scud-Extended Range variation, which has a maximum range of 1,000km.
Shortly after the launch, Japan said the missiles fell into the sea some 300 to 350km west of the Oga Peninsula in Akita Prefecture in northeastern Japan.
Three of the four landed within Japan’s exclusive economic zone, a 200-nautical-mile offshore zone where the country has sovereign rights to explore and manage natural resources, according to the government.
The missile launch followed one by North Korea in mid-February. The reclusive state fired more than 20 ballistic missiles last year alone.