North Korea launched an intermediate-range ballistic missile Tuesday that flew over the island nation of Japan.
The suspected Hwasong-12 missile was fired from Pyongyang at 5:57 a.m. and passed over the Tohoku region at the northern end of the country, the South Korean military said.
“It passed through the sky over Japan,” South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said, later noting that the missile traveled 2,700 kilometers at a maximum altitude of around 550 km.
Pentagon spokesman Col. Rob Manning similarly confirmed the missile’s flight path.
“We assess North Korea conducted a missile launch within the last 90 minutes,” Manning said. “We can confirm that the missile launched by North Korea flew over Japan.”
U.S. intelligence agencies were reportedly monitoring the launch site when Hwasong-12 missile equipment began to move in.
The Japanese government urged people living in Tohoku to take cover in underground shelters or solid buildings, Japanese broadcaster NHK reported.
A video posted to Twitter from the region revealed the warning message sent out to local residents over loudspeaker.
“I woke up with a Siren and an announcement that North Korea launched a missile that would possibly hit cities within Hokkaido,” a Twitter user said.
I woke up with a Siren and an announcement that North Korea launched a missile that would possibly hit cities within Hokkaido. pic.twitter.com/RGiflzTqJT
— Joe (@jtnarsico) August 28, 2017
A senior U.S. intelligence official speaking with NBC News said the launch represents the first missile test ever to pass over Japan on a high altitude trajectory. North Korea previously overflew the country in 1998 and 2009 with satellite launch vehicles.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowed Tuesday morning to protect the country.
“We’ll make the utmost effort to protect the public,” Abe told reporters.
NHK later reported that the North Korean missile broke into three pieces during its 733 mile trip into the Pacific Ocean east of Hokkaido’s Cape Erimo.
Earlier this month Pyongyang put a plan on hold that called for launching four Hwasong-12 missiles over Japan and into waters near the U.S. territory of Guam.
The launch comes just hours after the U.S. and Japan ended the joint military exercise “Northern Viper” on Hokkaido.
On Saturday North Korea also launched three short-range ballistic missiles. Although U.S. Pacific Command initially reported that two of the missiles “failed in flight,” the agency later confirmed that both projectiles survived and flew “250 kilometers in a northeastern direction.”
U.S. Pacific Command also stated that one of the three missiles blew up “almost immediately” after launch.
The U.S. and South Korea, much to the dismay of Pyongyang, are currently carrying out the joint annual military exercise Ulchi-Freedom Guardian.
Reports Monday also indicated that North Korea is showing signs that indicate preparations for its sixth nuclear weapons test.
In a closed door parliamentary session, Seoul’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) told South Korean lawmakers that recent activity at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site suggests an underground detonation may be in the works.
Pyongyang, according to Kim Byung-kee, a lawmaker of South Korea’s ruling Democratic Party (DP) who attended the meeting, “has completed its preparation to carry out a nuclear test at Tunnel 2 and Tunnel 3 of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site.”
Byung-kee also said the NIS report detailed new construction at Tunnel 4, where excavation work paused last year.
This story is developing and will be updated as more information becomes available
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