Nuclear-armed North Korea has fired a ballistic missile over Japan for the first time in five years.
Residents were warned to take cover, and an alert was issued to those living in the north-east of Japan to evacuate nearby buildings as the missile flew over the country before landing in the Pacific Ocean.
Trains in the northern regions were also temporarily stopped as a result of the weapon test.
The Japanese government said it did not use any defence measures to destroy the missile, but warned that North Korea “poses a serious challenge to the entire international community”.
It is the most significant missile test by North Korea since January, when it fired the Hwasong-12 intermediate-range missile capable of reaching the US territory of Guam, and is the first time one of its missiles has flown over Japan since 2017.
The launch is the fifth round of weapons tests by the country in the past 10 days in what was seen as an apparent response to military drills between South Korea and the United States – drills North Korea views as an invasion rehearsal.
“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,” Japan’s top government spokesperson Hirokazu Matsuno said.
He added that the missile flew 4,600 kilometres (2,850 miles) to a maximum altitude of 1,000 km.
Japan’s prime minister Fumio Kishida said the firing “is a reckless act and I strongly condemn it”.
The US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said he had consulted with Japanese counterparts over possible responses to the missile launch, and reinforced the United States’ “ironclad commitments to the defence of Japan”.
Launch also detected by South Korea
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said it also detected the launch, adding that it appeared to have been an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) from North Korea’s Jagang Province.
The province has been used by North Korea to launch several recent tests, including multiple missiles that it claimed were “hypersonic.”
The missiles fired during the past four rounds of launches were short-range and fell in the waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan.
Those missiles are capable of hitting targets in South Korea.
North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons programmes are banned by United Nations Security Council resolutions, which have imposed sanctions on the country.