North Korea Launches Missile Over Japan for the First Time in Five Years

North Korea
North Korea
Courtesy of Janne WittoekFlickr CC0)

About North Korea’s Missile

Early Tuesday morning, North Korea fired a ballistic missile over Japan without any warning leaving Japan residents shocked. Alarms were blaring all across Northern Japan and residents were warned that they should seek shelter. After passing over, the missile landed in the Pacific Ocean

Including this recent event, there have been 23 missile tests from North Korea just this year. There have been both ballistic and cruise missiles being launched. There have been at least five rounds of missiles in the past ten days. Although this test marked the first time in five years that a North Korean missile was fired over Japan. Since Kim Jong Un came into power in 2012,  this year has had the most ballistic missiles launched.

North Korea
Courtesy of Roman Harak (Flickr CC0)

According to Japanese officials the missile flew around 2,858 miles(4,600 kilometers) in distance and with an altitude of about 621 miles(1,000 kilometers). It was moving rapidly with an astounding top speed of Mach 17, making it 17 times faster than the speed of sound.

Due to the details of the missile flight, experts believe that the missile was likely to be more powerful than a Hwasong-12. This type of missile is an intermediate-range ballistic missile, or an IRBM, and was last tested in January.

Why is this dangerous?

The range of this missile was alarming to some, as it showed that it could have reached Guam, only 2100 miles away. Guam is a small American owned land which had been previously threatened to be attacked by North Korea.

An unannounced missile launch like could also be threatening to any any aircrafts or ships in the area since they would have no time to evacuate the potential danger. U.S. aircrafts previously have been sent to the ground due to the the launch of Korean missiles. Although there was no reported damage to any vessels near the missile.

North Korea usually does not launch in this area and tends fire missiles along the coast of the Korean Peninsula. This recent launch over Japan seems more provocative for both pragmatic and symbolic reasons. This missile could have posed a severe threat to the population in Japan’s Tohoku region if it were to fail. Within the region there are more then eight million people living there.

Symbolically this shows Pyongyang’s progress in their military capabilities and the lack thereof of progress on nuclear negotiations.

After the Launch

Countries like the United States and South Korea were quick to denounce the launch of this missile. South Korean President, Yoon Suk Yeol, stated that this was reckless provocative behavior from North Korea. He also stated that the North Korea will receive a response from the South Korean military and it’s allies.

The U.S. White House has strongly condemned this missile test. Adrienne Watson, a representative for the National Security Council, says this launch was a complete disregard to the international safety norms that the National Security Council has put in place.

The reason behind North Korea launching their missile across Japan is unknown as of now. North Korea is a secluded and private country that is not very public about their affairs. They have not made a public statement about their missiles launches in six months.

Though recently, the United States, South Korea, and Japan have shown their readiness to be able to work together through the military exercises they are conducting. Kim has always seen these military drills as hostile acts and uses them for justification for his own nuclear development.

Additionally both South Korean and U.S. officials have been warning about a potential nuclear test. Kim has previously stated this year that the country will push to develop their nuclear weapons as quickly as they can. Satellite imagery has shown activity at the nuclear test site. If a test is conducted, it would be the first again in almost five years and the seventh for the country.

Written by Alyssa Calderon


CNN: North Korea fired a missile over Japan for the first time in five years. Here’s what you need to know

The Washington Post: North Korea is turning up the heat again. Here’s why.

NBC: North Korean missile launch raises alarm in Washington

CNN: Japan issues rare alert as North Korea fires missile without warning over main island

Top and Featured Image Courtesy of  Roman Harak Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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