Sirens wail in Japan, thousands seek shelter as emboldened North Korea launches missile

For the first time in five years, Japan was forced to issue an alert to its citizens as an emboldened North Korea fired a ballistic missile capable of reaching American territory days after Vice President Kamala Harris’ visit to the Korean Demilitarized Zone.

Early Tuesday morning, sirens blared across Japan as civilians were warned to seek shelter indoors after North Korea had launched its fifth missile within 10 days. Alerts informed that the trajectory of the launch threatened the people of the nation’s second-largest island and its northernmost prefecture, Hokkaido.

“#BREAKING: Japan says North Korea has launched a missile, warns people to seek shelter immediately. Message running on local TV: ‘North Korea appears to have launched a missile. Please evacuate to the inside of a building or go to the basement. Target area: Hokkaido.'”

After the threat had passed, it was reported that the missile had passed over Japan and splashed down nearly 2,000 miles off the northern Japanese coast making the launch roughly 500 miles further than North Korea’s previous record set in 2017.

Four U.S. F-16 fighter jets and four South Korean F-15s responded to the North Korean aggression by conducting a joint strike where two precision-guided Joint Direct Attack Munition bombs were fired at an island. The South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff reported this was meant to demonstrate the “overwhelming force” North Korean targets would be met with should cause arise.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida remarked that the launch was “a reckless act and I strongly condemn it,” and government spokesperson Hirokazu Matsuno stated, “North Korea’s series of actions, including its repeated ballistic missile launches, threatens the peace and security of Japan, the region, and the international community, and poses a serious challenge to the entire international community, including Japan.”

In addition to the joint military exercise, the US responded with National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson issuing a statement that read in part, “The United States strongly condemns the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) dangerous and reckless decision to launch a long-range ballistic missile over Japan. This action is destabilizing and shows the DPRK’s blatant disregard for United Nations Security Council resolutions and international safety norms…The United States will continue its effort to limit the DPRK’s ability to advance its prohibited ballistic missile and weapons of mass destruction programs, including with allies and UN partners.”

When Harris had left South Korea Thursday after blundering through a speech and referring to North Korea as our ally, her departure had been met with the launch of a fourth ballistic missile within a week’s time. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre had downplayed the action saying, “As you know, North Korea has a history of doing these types of tests.”

However, the Joint Chiefs of Staff did not treat the danger so dismissively as they issued a message to reporters that read, “The recent series of North Korea’s ballistic missiles is an act of significant provocation that undermines peace not only on the Korean Peninsula, but also in the international community, and a clear breach of UN Security Council resolutions.”

As it happened, the latest launch reportedly demonstrated sufficient range to strike the American territory of Guam where thousands of US service members reside.


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Kevin Haggerty


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