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North Korea

US demands China take ‘direct action’ after North Korea fires another missile over Japan

The 3,700km distance travelled by the missile – far beyond last month’s launch – would have put the US island territory of Guam within reach, if it had been on a different trajectory

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 September, 2017, 6:32am
UPDATED : Friday, 15 September, 2017, 4:26pm

North Korea fired a missile on Friday that flew over Japan’s northern Hokkaido far out into the Pacific Ocean, further ratcheting up tensions after Pyongyang’s recent test of a powerful nuclear bomb.

The missile flew over Japan and landed in the Pacific about 2,000km east of Hokkaido, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said.

The launch prompted US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to demand that China and Russia take “direct actions” against Pyongyang.

“China and Russia must indicate their intolerance for these reckless missile launches by taking direct actions of their own,” he said.

Hours after Tillerson’s statement, China’s Foreign Ministry said that it opposed North Korea’s use of ballistic missiles in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China had made enormous sacrifices to implement UN resolutions and that its sincerity could not be doubted.

Watch: North Korea fires another missile over Japan

We can never tolerate that North Korea trampled on the international community’s strong, united resolve toward peace ... with this outrageous act
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Japan would “never tolerate” what he called North Korea’s “dangerous provocative action that threatens world peace”.

“We can never tolerate that North Korea trampled on the international community’s strong, united resolve toward peace that has been shown in UN resolutions and went ahead again with this outrageous act,” Abe said.

The missile reached an altitude of about 770km and flew for about 19 minutes over a distance of about 3,700km, according to South Korea’s military – far enough to reach the US Pacific territory of Guam.

It was “the furthest overground any of their ballistic missiles has ever travelled”, Joseph Dempsey of the International Institute for Strategic Studies said on Twitter.

The North’s last missile launch, a Hwasong-12 IRBM just over two weeks ago, also overflew Japan’s main islands and was the first to do so for years.

Analysts have speculated the new test was of the same intermediate-range missile launched in that earlier flight.

Warning announcements about the missile blared around 7am in parts of northern Japan, while many residents received alerts on their mobile phones or saw warnings on TV telling them to seek refuge.

US Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis said the launch “put millions of Japanese into duck and cover”, although residents in northern Japan appeared calm and went about their business as normal after the second such launch in less than a month.

The Japanese government warned people not to approach any debris or other suspicious-looking material, a reflection of that fact that North Korean missiles sometimes break up in flight.

South Korea said it had fired a missile test into the sea to coincide with North Korea’s launch. The presidential Blue House has called an urgent National Security Council meeting. Japan also convened a National Security Council meeting.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in ordered officials to analyse and prepare for possible new North Korean threats, including electro-magnetic pulse and biochemical attacks, a spokesman said.

The North’s launch comes a day after the North threatened to sink Japan and reduce the United States to “ashes and darkness” for supporting a UN Security Council resolution imposing new sanctions against it for its September 3 nuclear test, its most powerful by far.

The North accuses the United States, which has 28,500 troops in South Korea, of planning to invade and regularly threatens to destroy it and its Asian allies.

Australia, a strong and vocal ally of the United States, quickly condemned the launch.

“This is another dangerous, reckless, criminal act by the North Korean regime, threatening the stability of the region and the world and we condemn it, utterly,” Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said.

“This is a sign, I believe, of their frustration at the increased sanctions on North Korea, recently imposed by the Security Council. It’s a sign that the sanctions are working.”

The United Nations Security Council voted unanimously on a US-drafted resolution and a new round of sanctions on Monday, banning North Korea’s textile exports and capping fuel supplies.

The UN Security Council will hold an emergency meeting Friday at 3pm (3am Hong Kong time Saturday). The meeting will be closed-door, diplomats said.

The US dollar fell sharply against the safe-haven yen and Swiss franc in early Asian hours in response to the launch, though losses were quickly pared in very jittery trade.

US President Donald Trump has vowed that North Korea will never be allowed to threaten the United States with a nuclear-tipped missile, but has also asked China to do more to rein in its neighbour. China in turn favours an international response to the problem.

The United States and South Korea are technically still at war with North Korea because the 1950-53 Korean conflict ended with a truce and not a peace treaty.

Reuters, Washington Post, Kyodo, Agence France-Presse