North Korea launched a medium-range ballistic missile over Japan on Tuesday for the first time in five years, forcing Japan to issue evacuation notices and suspend trains, while the North escalated testing weapons designed to strike US regional allies.

It was North Korea’s most important missile test since January, when it launched a Hwasong-12 medium-range missile capable of reaching US territory Guam. Japan and South Korea have convened security meetings to discuss the launch.

The Japanese prime minister’s office reported that at least one missile fired from North Korea flew over Japan and presumably landed in the Pacific Ocean.

Japanese authorities alerted residents of the northeastern regions to evacuate to shelters, in the first “J-alert” since 2017, when North Korea launched a Hwasong-12 missile over Japan during a previous provocative weapons test.

Trains were suspended in the Hokkaido and Aomori regions until the government issued another notice that a North Korean missile was likely to have landed in the Pacific.

Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters that “the dismissal following the recent series of North Korean shots is a reckless act and I strongly condemn it.” He said he would convene the National Security Council to discuss the situation.

The secretary general of the Japanese cabinet, Hirokazu Matsuno, said the missile, which flew 22 minutes and landed in waters outside the country’s exclusive economic zone, reported no damage.

Japan's Secretary General Hirokazu Matsuno is holding a press conference following the news of the North Korean rocket launch at the Prime Minister's office in Tokyo on Tuesday, October 4, 2022.
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The Joint Chiefs of Staff of South Korea said they detected a missile fired from the northern part of North Korea. He said the South Korean military had raised its surveillance posture and maintained its readiness in close coordination with the United States.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said the missile’s range was 2,485 miles, putting Guam within impact range.

Yoon said he had convened a National Security Council meeting to discuss the launch and that the North’s “reckless nuclear provocation” would be met with harsh response from the South and the wider international community.

The inauguration marks the fifth round of weapons tests conducted by North Korea in the last 10 days, which was seen as a clear response to the bilateral military exercises between South Korea and the United States and other training of allies, including Japan, last week.

The missiles fired in the last four rounds had a short range and landed in the waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan. These missiles are capable of hitting targets in South Korea.

North Korea launched around 40 missiles this year in around 20 different launch events as its leader Kim Jong Un vows to expand its nuclear arsenal and refuses to return to nuclear diplomacy with the United States.

Some experts say Kim will eventually try to use her expanded arsenal to put pressure on Washington to accept his country as a nuclear state, which he believes is necessary to lift international sanctions and other concessions.

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