Japan takes shelter as North Korea fires ballistic missile

Japanese citizens were ordered to take shelter as North Korea fired a ballistic missile over the country in an escalation of its weapons testing spree.

At least one missile fired from North Korea flew over Japan and was believed to have landed into the Pacific Ocean, the Japanese prime minister's office said.

Residents in Hakkaido were told to evacuate buildings and shelter in the first such alert in five years. Trains were suspended until the government issued a second statement saying the missile had landed in the sea and the all clear was given.

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The South Korean and US militaries responded by launching fighter jets, which fired weapons at a target off South Korea’s west coast in a show of strength against North Korea.

A United Nations Command soldier and South Korean soldiers walk in the Joint Security Area of the Demilitarized Zone in the truce village of Panmunjom. North Korea fired a mid-range ballistic missile on October 4, which flew over Japan, Seoul and Tokyo said, a significant escalation as Pyongyang ramps up its record-breaking weapons-testing blitz.
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Tensions have been increasing in the region as North Korea carried out tests on various weapons amid a stalling of nuclear diplomacy. The United Nations prohibits North Korea from testing ballistic and nuclear weapons.

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The North Korean missile launch was its most provocative weapons demonstration this year, as it pushes to develop a fully fledged nuclear arsenal capable of threatening the US mainland and its allies with the goal of wresting concessions from those countries, some experts said.

North Korea has test-fired about 40 missiles over about 20 different launch events this year as its leader, Kim Jong Un, refuses to return to nuclear diplomacy with the United States.

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It is the most significant missile test by North Korea since January, when it fired the Hwasong-12 intermediate-range missile capable of reaching the US territory of Guam.

Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida told reporters “the firing, which followed a recent series of launches by North Korea, is a reckless act and I strongly condemn it". He said he would call a National Security Council meeting to discuss the situation.

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Japanese chief cabinet secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said there had been no immediate reports of damage reported after the North's missile launch. He said the missile landed in waters outside of the country's exclusive economic zone after a 22-minute flight.

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said it also detected the launch of what it called a ballistic missile that was fired from the North's northern inland area. It said the South Korean military has bolstered its surveillance and was maintaining its readiness in close co-ordination with the United States.

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Residents fear the move could signal an escalation of tensions with North Korea.

"If a missile hit, I was worried it would be a big problem not only here, but also nationwide," Aomori resident Kazuko Ebina told the Asahi Shimbun newspaper.

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The United States strongly condemned North Korea’s “dangerous and reckless decision” to launch what it described as a “long-range ballistic missile” over Japan.

“The United States will continue its efforts to limit [North Korea’s] ability to advance its prohibited ballistic missile and weapons of mass destruction programmes, including with allies and UN partners,” National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a statement.

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Four US F-16 fighter jets and four South Korean F-15s conducted a joint strike drill in which one of the South Korean planes fired two precision-guided Joint Direct Attack Munition bombs into an island target.

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