North Korea’s ballistic missiles thankfully haven’t reached Alaska, despite Pyongyang’s claims they have warheads that can do so, but they have hit a new and concerning milestone late Friday night. A North Korean missile sailed about 600 miles over the isolated country’s eastern sea and landed within Japan’s exclusive economic zone. That’s not as close to home as its territorial waters, but is still a cause for concern for Japan, South Korea, and their allies. The exclusive economic zone is a boundary set by the United Nations, the same international body North Korea is defying with this, its fourteenth ballistic missile test.
(UPDATE: NPR reports word from the Pentagon, which says this was North Korea’s second intercontinental ballistic missile.)
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced to the public that he had “received the first report that North Korea again launched a missile and it possibly landed inside the exclusive economic zone.” The test occurred late on Friday, around at 11:41pm and prompted an extremely early meeting of South Korea’s a National Security Council at 1:00pm just two hours later. Japan also declared it would be gathering its national security advisors together to investigate and respond to the test. The Pentagon is also looking into the matter.
So far, what is known is that the missile flew for about 45 minutes and has a longer range than the other missiles North Korea has previously tested. That’s rapid progress after an April missile test that ended in a launchpad explosion. It also comes as relations between the U.S. and North Korea worsen, especially following the death of American Otto Warmbier after he was released from detention in North Korea in a mysterious coma.
President Trump has gotten terse with China for their perceived lack of assistance in penalizing North Korea for its tests. Meanwhile, South Korea is carefully trying to navigate those tense relationships while avoiding confrontation with its northern neighbor. A North Korean defector who was living in South Korea recently reappeared in Pyongyang, denouncing life in Seoul. It isn’t clear if she was kidnapped or returned voluntarily.