Pyongyang’s short-range ballistic missile flies 450 km, lands in Sea of Japan
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said Pyongyang launched at least one projectile in the eastern direction from Wonsan, Gangwon Province at dawn.
“It is estimated to be a Scud type [missile],” the JCS said, adding, that the projectile flew about 450 kilometers. “The president was immediately notified of the situation, and the president ordered the NSC Standing Committee at 7:30 am.”
“So far, the assessment is there was at least one missile but we are analyzing the number of missiles,” JCS spokesman Roh Jae-cheon said, adding, the missile reached an altitude of 120 km (75 miles).
US President Donald Trump has also been briefed about the launch, according to a White House official. The missile was tracked by the US military for six minutes, Pacific Command said, confirming that the projectile landed in the Sea of Japan. The US military said it did not pose a threat to North America.
Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary, Yoshihide Suga, said the North Korean launches pose risk to air traffic in the area as well as to vessels navigating the Sea of Japan, Reuters reports.
"This ballistic missile launch by North Korea is highly problematic from the perspective of the safety of shipping and air traffic and is a clear violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions," Suga told reporters in televised remarks.
Suga announced that North Korea launched one ballistic missile around 5:40 am from the east coast, and that the projectile seemed to have fallen in the Sea of Japan within the Japanese exclusive economic zone (EEZ). He condemned the launch as a violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions.
“As we agreed at the recent G7, the issue of North Korea is a top priority for the international community," Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in brief comment on the launch. “Working with the United States, we will take specific action to deter North Korea.”
Pyongyang announced earlier this month that it had successfully tested the Pukguksong-2 intermediate range ballistic missile after a projectile was detected landing in international waters off Japan’s east coast. The allegedly nuclear-capable missile was launched just a week after North Korea launched its Hwasong-12 rocket.
The launch comes amid extremely high tensions on the Korean Peninsula. On Sunday, US Defense Secretary James Mattis warned that a conflict with North Korea would be “catastrophic.”
“The North Korean regime has hundreds of artillery cannons and rocket launchers within range of one of the most densely populated cities on earth, which is the capital of South Korea,” Mattis said on CBS's ‘Face the Nation.’
“This regime is a threat to the region, to Japan, to South Korea. And in the event of war, they would bring danger to China and to Russia as well,” the Pentagon chief added. “But the bottom line is it would be a catastrophic war if this turns into a combat if we're not able to resolve this situation through diplomatic means.”
President Trump has repeatedly vowed to end Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, warning last month that if diplomacy fails, a “major, major conflict” with North Korea is possible.
Trump has also pressed China to put pressure on North Korea as its Pyongyang’s main economic lifeline. Beijing, however, has its own concerns with Washington’s decision to deploy its Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in South Korea, saying it’s a threat to its own security and will not contribute to the easing of tensions with the North.
The Chinese have also repeatedly called for all sides to remain calm and level-headed during the North Korean stand-off and has urged the parties to “stop irritating each other.”
Moscow and Beijing have also been calling for a revival of the six-nation denuclearization talks which have been frozen since 2009.