North Korea launched an “unspecified ballistic missile” on Thursday, as reported by Seoul’s military.
This prompted Japan to issue a warning to residents in the northern Hokkaido region, advising them to take shelter.
Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff announced that North Korea fired an unidentified ballistic missile into the East Sea, also known as the Sea of Japan, but did not provide further details.
Japan confirmed the launch and instructed Hokkaido’s residents to “evacuate immediately” and seek shelter in a building or underground, warning that the missile was expected to land around 8:00 am local time (2300 GMT).
However, local government officials in Hokkaido confirmed that the missile could not hit the island.
Pyongyang has conducted a series of weapons tests at the start of the year, including nuclear-capable underwater drone tests and two intercontinental ballistic missile launches.
North Korea has also claimed to have conducted three tests of underwater drones, known as Haeil, which means tsunami in Korean, in less than three weeks, claiming that it is capable of unleashing a “radioactive tsunami.”
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attended a meeting of the Central Military Commission on Monday to discuss ways to “cope with the escalating moves of the US imperialists and the South Korean puppet traitors to unleash a war of aggression.
” This prompted Kim to order the country to strengthen its deterrence capabilities at “increasing speed” and in a “more practical and offensive” manner.
North Korea declared itself an “irreversible” nuclear power last year, rendering denuclearisation talks unlikely.
This year, Kim ordered the military to intensify drills to prepare for a “real war,” causing Washington and Seoul to intensify defence cooperation by staging joint military exercises with advanced stealth jets and high-profile US strategic assets.
North Korea views such joint exercises as rehearsals for invasion, describing them as “frantic” drills “simulating an all-out war against” Pyongyang.
South Korea also accused North Korea of being “irresponsible” for cutting hotline contact with Seoul last week, as North Korea refused to accept its notice to quit activity at the joint industrial complex in Kaesong, which Seoul pulled out of in 2016 following a North Korean nuclear test, claiming the complex supported Pyongyang’s weapons programmes.