Tokyo/Seoul November 3, 2011 North Korea fired several ballistic missiles on Thursday; That triggered warnings for residents in parts of central and northern Japan to seek shelter, including a failed intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
Japan’s government initially warned that the missile was loaded, but Tokyo later said this was incorrect.
South Korean and Japanese officials said the missile could be North Korea’s longest-range ICBM, and could be designed to carry a nuclear warhead to the other side of the planet.
South Korean officials believe the ICBM crashed mid-flight, Yonhap news agency reported. A spokesman for South Korea’s defense ministry declined to confirm the defeat.
Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada has confirmed that the government has announced that the missile fired over the Sea of Japan has lost track and landed in Japan.
Yoji Koda, a retired vice admiral and former commander of Japan’s Naval Self-Defense Force fleet, said the loss of radar tracking on the project indicated a failure.
“That means there was some problem with the missile at some point on the flight path and it actually fell apart,” he said.
Even though the battle took place in the sea between the Korean Peninsula and Japan, high-speed debris could still have passed through Japan, Koda added.
North Korea has conducted several failed ICBM tests this year, South Korean and US officials said.
North Korea also launched at least two short-range missiles.
It comes a day after North Korea fired at least 23 missiles in a single day, including the first that landed off the coast of South Korea.
South Korean Vice Foreign Minister Cho Eun-dong and US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman strongly condemned North Korea’s series of missile launches as “tragic, immoral”, according to Seoul’s Foreign Ministry.
Residents in Japan’s Miyagi, Yamagata and Niigata prefectures have been warned to seek shelter indoors.
“We found a launcher that showed the potential to fly over Japan and triggered a J alert, but after confirming the flight, we confirmed that it did not fly over Japan,” Hamada told reporters.
The first missile flew to an altitude of 2,000 km and a range of 750 km, he said. Such a flight pattern is called “high altitude” where the missile is fired high into space to avoid flying over neighboring countries.
“North Korea’s repeated missile launches are an outrage and can never be forgiven,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said in brief remarks to reporters minutes later.
Half an hour after the launch was first reported, Japan’s coast guard said the missile had crashed.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the long-range missile was launched from near the North Korean capital, Pyongyang.
An hour after the first launch, the South Korean military and Japanese coast guard reported a second and third raid from North Korea. South Korea said both were short-range missiles fired from Kacheon, north of Pyongyang.
After North Korea was hit on Wednesday, including one missile that landed less than 60 km (40 miles) off the South Korean coast, South Korean President Yun Suk-yeol called the flights a “territorial invasion” and condemned Washington’s “recklessness.”
South Korea issued a rare airstrike warning and fired its own missiles in response after Wednesday’s attack.
The launch frenzy has led to inconsistent and sometimes conflicting reports from Japanese and South Korean officials. The US military, which has the most advanced surveillance technology in the region, said it was “aware” of the launch, without giving details.
Japan and South Korea have a history of misrepresenting North Korean missile events, said Ankit Panda of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
“Neither country has the most reliable and desirable space-based infrared sensors for the United States to quickly detect when missile stages are ignited,” he said.
The inauguration came after Pyongyang called on the United States and South Korea to halt large-scale military exercises, saying such “military tyranny and provocation can no longer be tolerated.”
He previously said that missile launches and other military activities that oppose those exercises have been ramping up recently.
Hundreds of South Korean and U.S. warplanes, including allied F-35 fighters, are carrying out the biggest air drills ever, carrying out simulated missions around the clock.
Seoul and Washington say the drills are defensive, and needed to counter threats from the North.
On October 4, North Korea fired a ballistic missile at Japan for the first time in five years, warning residents there to take cover. North Korea is far from ever firing a missile.
Reporting by Kantoro Komiya, Tim Kelly, Chang-Ran Kim and David Dolan in Tokyo, and Hyeon Shin and Josh Smith in Seoul; Writing by Josh Smith; Editing by Chris Reese, Lincoln Feast and Gerry Doyle
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