According to Bloomberg News, North Korea reportedly fired a missile toward Japan on Monday. Reports on Twitter said that the Japanese government had warned people in northern Japan to take precautions against the possible strike, but new reports that emerged soon after claimed that the missile, while fired in Japan's direction, flew over the island nation. It is still unclear if that was the intent of the North Koreans, or if it was a misfire.
"We will make utmost efforts to firmly protect the lives of the people," Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters on Monday. Yoshihide Suga, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary, also called the missile test a "grave" and "unprecedented" threat to the country.
ABC News reported that this was the 13th missile launch from North Korea this year. On Friday, it fired three ballistic missiles, one of which failed in flight. But the distance that this missile traveled may be cause for concern for some who don't take the North Korean threat seriously.
Japanese broadcaster NHK reported that the missile flew over Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost island, before landing in the Pacific Ocean east of Hokkaido's Cape Erimo, according to The Washington Post. The missile originated in Sunan, an area north of Pyongyang, and the location of the country's main international airport. The ballistic missile traveled 733 miles before it broke into three parts off Japan's Eastern coast. North Korean missiles have landed in the waters off of Hokkaido before, but always in the Sea of Japan, on the nation's Western coast. Monday's launch was a terrifyingly impressive lateral distance for a North Korean missile to travel.
The farthest that a North Korean ballistic missile had ever previously flown was 621 miles. On July 28 of this year, North Korea fired a two-stage intercontinental ballistic missile from Mupyong-ni in the far north of the country, according to ABC News. The missile reportedly traveled for 45 minutes before landing in the Sea of Japan, roughly 88 nautical miles west of Hokkaido. The ICBM reportedly traveled 2,300 miles into space, according to the South Korean military. The fear now is that if the trajectory of such a missile was angled differently, it could potentially travel as far as Washington, D.C. or New York.
A more pressing American-related target, however, would be Guam, a United States territory that houses two U.S. military bases. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had said last month that he might send missiles into the waters off of Guam in "mid-August," according to ABC News. But he reportedly later changed his mind, saying he would "watch a little more the foolish and stupid conduct of the Yankees." Guam is 3,400 km, or just about 2,100 miles, from Pyongyang.
While military experts examine the scope of this new threat, the seemingly rapid progression of North Korea's missile capacity has the world on edge.