MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Earlier in the day, North Korea launched a missile, which flew over Japan before falling into the Pacific Ocean 1,180 kilometers (733 miles) east of the island of Hokkaido. The launch was conducted at 5:57 a.m. local time (21:27 GMT on Monday).
The UN Security Council (UNSC) will convene for an emergency meeting to discuss this topic on Tuesday evening, but some countries could take unilateral measures. South Korea and the United States have announced that they are considering "military response options" with regard to North Korea’s provocations.
The two leaders later toned down their statements. Kim said Pyongyang would watch US activities a little longer, and Trump welcomed his statement. However, on August 21, the United States and South Korea began the annual 10-day Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise, which Pyongyang views as a repetition of an armed conflict.
Kim Jong-Un's achievement
The ballistic missile became the first one launched under Kim, who took over as North Korea’s leader in 2011, that succeeded to flow over Japan before falling into the Pacific Ocean some 1,200 km east of the Japanese coast. The previous such launch was reported in 2009, when North Korea claimed that it used a Taepodong-2 missile to orbit a satellite.
This time, a ballistic missile was launched from Sunan, the location of Pyongyang’s international airport, toward the Sea of Japan, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement. According to the statement, the missile traveled around 2,700 kilometers and reached a maximum height of 550 kilometers as it flew over Hokkaido.
The South Korean and Japanese military believe that the latest North Korean missile was either a Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile or a Hwasong-10 missile with an estimated range of some 3,000 km.
The launch of the North Korean missile set off an emergency alert system, J-Alert, in Japan, which sent a text alert to people in parts of Hokkaido, advising them to take precautions.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that North Korea had fired a ballistic missile, which flew over Japan. He added that the authorities were collecting and analyzing information on the issue.
Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said that they had not shot down the missile because they believed that it posed no risk to the country. He added that the launch of the missile over Japan was an unprecedented serious threat to peace and security in the region and an obvious violation of the UNSC resolutions.
Onodera said the latest launch over Japanese territory without any warning was an extremely dangerous action and that it had greatly increased threats to national security.
Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono said that the threat to Japan had increased dramatically. "The United States made clear both in written and spoken statements that President Trump had instructed to put all options on the table regarding North Korea, and I highly value that stance," Kono said.
"Whether to the east or the south, North Korea has launched a missile over Japan, and without warning. Such an act could pose a very serious threat to aircraft and ships at sea, even with a warning. I believe we have to apply more pressure than ever before. The UNSC needs to show a firmer stance than it has thus far," he said at an emergency news conference.
The US for 100% ally with Japan
According to Japanese officials, the North Korean missile could have reached Guam, which Pyongyang has been threatening to attack.
"The missile’s range is 5,000 kilometers. It goes without saying that a missile of this type could reach Guam," Onodera said, as quoted by the Kyodo news agency.
Abe and Trump have already held a phone conversation on the issue.
"We’ve held a 40-minute conversation with President Trump, discussed analysis of North Korea’s missile launch and measures that we should adopt. We have agreed that an extraordinary meeting of the UN Security Council should be convened and that more pressure should be brought to bear on North Korea," Abe said, as quoted by the NHK broadcaster.
The Japanese head of the government said that Trump confirmed that the United States was "100% with Japan," adding that Tokyo would cooperate with its foreign partners, including the United States and South Korea, as well as Russia and China, to put pressure on North Korea.
At the same time, the US Department of Defense believes that the North Korean missile posed no threat to North America.
"We can confirm that the missile launch by North Korea flew over Japan. We are in the process of assessing this launch. North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, determined the missile launch from North Korea did not pose a threat to North America," Col. Rob Manning, the Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement as quoted by media.
"The world has received North Korea’s latest message loud and clear: this regime has signaled its contempt for its neighbors, for all members of the United Nations, and for minimum standards of acceptable international behavior. Threatening and destabilizing actions only increase the North Korean regime’s isolation in the region and among all nations of the world. All options are on the table," Trump said as quoted by the White House.
Is Korea Preparing for war?
The South Korean government denounced the launch and promised a joint South Korean-US "powerful rebuff" if North Korea continued its "provocations," the country's Yonhap news agency reported.
According to the media reports, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford and his South Korean counterpart Gen. Jeong Kyeong-doo held a phone conversation and decided "to retaliate shortly to implement the powerful will for a response on the part of the alliance [Seoul and Washington], including a military response to North Korean provocations."
The South Korean Air Force launched field bombing drills Tuesday, dropping several MK-84 bombs during the exercises.
The South Korean military also posted a video of their own ballistic missile tests. A 1.5-minute Yonhap video shows the launches from all angles and how the missiles drop into the sea. According to the agency, the test was held on Thursday.
"This was the last test before their actual deployment," the agency quotes a missile developer from the South Korean Institute of Defense Analysis as saying.
Moreover, Seoul has announced that in the wake of the North Korean launch, the United States is considering a possibility of deploying a "strategic" defense capability in South Korea.
Russia does not believe in sanctions
Russian, in turn, pointed out that one of the reasons for the worsening of the situation on the Korean peninsula was US-South Korean joint military exercises.
"We can see an escalation tendency. We believe that the exercises conducted, albeit in a somewhat ‘lightweight version’ compared to the original scenario, played a role in provoking Pyongyang to make a new launch. We are now extremely worried about the overall development and the possible repercussions for the security situation in Northeast Asia," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said.
"Judging by how our colleges from the United States and other countries, US allies, acted in similar situations, we can certainly expect new steps toward strengthening the sanctions regime," the Russian diplomat said.
The deputy minister added that at the same time new sanctions would not solve all the problems.
"This will not resolve the problem, however. It is already obvious to everyone that the resource of sanctions pressure on North Korea has been exhausted. It is no longer possible for the UNSC to adopt resolutions without a clear indication that only a political solution is possible, but never a military one. A provision that would rule out additional unilateral sanctions in excess of those imposed collectively by the UNSC is a must," he said.
The Russian diplomat added that in case of a war on the Korean Peninsula the losses would be "incalculable" and called for restraint.
"I think that we should struggle against [a military solution] by any means… [In case of the escalation] an absolutely new reality would emerge, the tragedies would be incalculable. That's why we should prevent such scenario," Ryabkov said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Pyongyang should comply with the UNSC resolutions.
"We respect all the UNSC resolutions and call for their strict implementation by our North Korean neighbors. We adhere to this position during the discussions at the UNSC and would be guided by it, including at the session that is proposed," Lavrov said.
The launch has not gone unnoticed by the international community, as a number of world leaders and high-ranking officials from other countries have condemned the move.
"We are ready to support any effective initiatives to avoid escalation, to return Pyongyang to the negotiations table and to accurately implement the early August UN Security Council resolution," Macron told ambassadors in the Elysee Palace.
German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel called on foreign states to strictly adhere to the existing sanctions against North Korea following the latest Pyongyang's missile launch.
"In this situation, it is even more necessary for the international community to stick to the sanctions, which were imposed to make North Korea abandon its missile and nuclear program, prohibited under international law," Gabriel said in a statement, issued on the Foreign Ministry's website.
Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano condemned the launch due to its threat to the region.
"Italy voices condemnation of North Korea's ballistic launch that flew over the Japanese territory," Alfano said in a statement, adding that the frequency of the missile tests pose threat to the regional stability.
Chinese Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman Hua Chunying said that the anti-Pyongyang restrictions could not be a solution to the nuclear and missile crises.
"We think that sanctions or threats to impose restrictive measures could not fundamentally resolve the problem on the Korean Peninsula," Hua said at the press briefing.
The spokeswoman noted that China remained committed to the UNSC resolutions on North Korea, and urged all parties involved to make further efforts to resume the peace talks.
The high-ranking representatives of international organizations, such as NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini condemned the missile test.