1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites
A passerby walks past a TV screen reporting news about North Korea's missile launch in Tokyo
Image: Reuters/I. Kato

North Korea launches missile over Japan

September 15, 2017

Pyongyang has fired an intermediate-range missile over Japanese territory for the second time in two weeks, a day after Kim Jong Un threatened Tokyo for supporting the US.


Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe strongly condemned the launch of the latest launch of a North Korean missile, saying that Tokyo could "never tolerate" what he called a "dangerous provocative action that threatens world peace."

"If North Korea continues to walk down this path, it has no bright future. We must make North Korea understand this,"  Abe said.

The Japanese military has said that a missile fired by North Korea flew over Hokkaido island early on Thursday, then plunged into the Pacific.

The longest-ever flight from a North Korean rocket was a move in clear defiance of its rivals who recently pushed through a new raft of economic sanctions against Pyongyang at the UN Security Council.

One of North Korea's furthest-reaching missile tests: Alexandra von Nahmen from Washington

Read more:
Where did North Korea get its missile technology?

The North Korea crisis: 10 questions, 10 answers

North Korea: From war to nuclear weapons

Residents of Hokkaido described the terrifying wake-up call they faced as the missile flew overhead. Millions of citizens in earthquake-prone Japan were awakened by an emergency siren, and told to take cover via loudspeaker messages. Morning news programs warned that residents should "flee into a building or basement."

"It's really scary. The government tells us to flee to stable buildings but we can't do that quickly. Our colleagues offshore can never take cover," said Yoichi Takahashi, 57, a fisheries official in Kushiro on Hokkaido, told French news agency Agence France-Presse.

Infographic chronology of nuclear tests in North Korea

According to the South Korean military, the unidentified missile reached an altitude of about 770 kilometers (480 miles) and flew 3,700 kilometers (2,300 miles), which is far enough to reach the US island territory of Guam. The Offices of Guam Homeland Security and Civil Defense said, however, that this latest launch posed no immediate threat to the island.

Seoul said President Moon Jae-in had ordered officials to "closely analyze and prepare for new possible North Korean threats like EMP [electromagnetic pulse] and biochemical attacks."

Although Pyongyang has said it was developing a hydrogen bomb that could carry out an EMP attack, analysts remain skeptical that the North has the sophisticated technological means and know-how to carry out such an assault.

On Wednesday, Air Force General John Hyten, who oversees America's nuclear forces, said even without definitive proof thus far it was responsible to assume the recent test on September 3 was a functioning hydrogen bomb, as North Korea has claimed. 

"I have to make that assumption as a military officer," said Hyten.

Tillerson: China, Russia must take direct actions

The Pentagon confirmed that it was an intermediate range ballistic missile, adding that it had not been a threat to North America.

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters that top US officials had fully coordinated after the test-launch.

"We have just got done with the calls we always make to coordinate among ourselves. Steady as she goes," he said.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called on "all nations," specifically China and Russia, to stop North Korea's military ambitions.

"China supplies North Korea with most of its oil. Russia is the largest employer of North Korean forced labor," Tillerson said.

"China and Russia must indicate their intolerance for these reckless missile launches by taking direct actions of their own." 

The UN Security Council scheduled an emergency meeting following the launch.

Read more:
How North Korea survives on an oil-drip from Russia

What is China's role in the North Korean crisis?

The White House also released a statement saying that President Donald Trump had been briefed on the situation. 

'Ashes and darkness'

WorldLink: A defector's view on North Korea, in comics

This latest provocation came a day after the North threatened to destroy Japan and reduce the United States to "ashes and darkness," following support for a UN resolution imposing new sanctions against the regime for its most recent nuclear test earlier this month. This was the eighth raft of economic sanctions imposed on North Korea in an attempt to curb its weapons program.

Read more: EU targets North Korea's main exports with an expanded blacklistRead more: Pakistan's indirect role in North Korea's nuclear program

The launch came amid a renewal of tensions between North Korea, its neighbors and the United States. Two weeks ago, the regime also launched a missile that flew over Japan, the first to do so in years. Pyongyang had warned Tokyo that it would deliver a "telling blow" in retribution for Japan's "dancing to the tune of the US."

'Hysteria' on the Korean peninsula?

es,se/cmk (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)

Skip next section Explore more
Skip next section DW's Top Story

DW's Top Story

Launchers carrying Tochka tactical missiles

Ukraine updates: Kyiv slams Russia's Belarus nuclear plan

Skip next section More stories from DW
Go to homepage