North Korea says its latest missile test over the Japanese mainland was preparation for a strike on the US Pacific territory of Guam.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un reignited the threat of nuclear war in the Pacific on Tuesday by launching an intermediate-range ballistic missile over Japan to counter US and South Korean military drills.
Kim ordered the missile drill to be conducted for the first time from the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, and said it was necessary to undertake more exercises with the Pacific as the target, the North’s state-run KCNA news agency said.
“The current ballistic rocket launching drill like a real war is the first step of the military operation of the KPA [Korean People’s Army] in the Pacific and a meaningful prelude to containing Guam,” KCNA quoted Kim as saying.
Kim was reportedly present at the launch and was “very satisfied with the performance of the missile”.
The ominous statement comes after US President Donald Trump warned North Korea that “all options are on the table” as response to its latest missile test.
Earlier this month, North Korea threatened to fire four missiles into the sea near Guam, home to a major military presence, after US President Donald Trump said the North would face “fire and fury” if it threatened the United States.
Tuesday’s test was of the same Hwasong-12 missile Kim threatened to use on Guam, but the test flight took it another direction, over northern Japan’s Hokkaido and into the North Pacific Ocean.
President Trump, who has vowed not to let North Korea develop nuclear missiles that can reach the mainland United States, said the world had received North Korea’s latest message “loud and clear”.
“Threatening and destabilising 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 in a statement on Tuesday.
US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said the launch was “absolutely unacceptable and irresponsible” adding that the UN Security Council now needed to take serious action.
The UN Security Council denounced North Korea’s latest missile test in a special meeting Wednesday, unanimously demanding that Pyongyang halt the program.
The 15-nation body maintained its unity after Kim’s latest provocation, with China and Russia agreeing to sign up to a statement condemning his isolated regime’s action.
The launch came as US and South Korean forces conducted annual military exercises on the Korean peninsula, angering Pyongyang which sees the war games as a preparation for invasion.
North Korea has conducted dozens of missile tests under Kim in defiance of UN sanctions, but firing a ballistic missile over mainland Japan was described byJapanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as “unprecedented”.
Minutes after the missile was launched, residents in northern Japan received a text message urging them to seek shelter in a strong structure or a basement.
“We were awoken by sirens and messages from the government telling us to take cover,” a local resident told CNN.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he would do all in his power to protect the Japanese public.
“We will make utmost efforts to firmly protect the lives of the people,” Mr Abe told reporters as he entered his office for emergency meetings on the missile firing on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull condemned North Korea after receiving a security briefing on the missile launch.
“Australia condemns this latest reckless, dangerous and provocative act by the North Korean regime which continues to threaten the peace and stability of the region,” Mr Turnbull said in a video statement.
The Prime Minister again called on all nations to impose the harshest sanctions on Pyongyang, singling out China as the country with the most economic leverage.
“They have the ability to bring North Korea to its senses without military action,” he said.
The Security Council earlier this month unanimously imposed new sanctions on North Korea after it staged two long-range missile launches in July.
South Korea and the United States have discussed deploying additional “strategic assets” on the Korean peninsula, South Korea’s presidential Blue House said in a statement, without giving more details.
– With agencies