North Korea fires ballistic missile over Japan
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The latest launch -- which the United States branded "reckless and dangerous" -- comes in a record year of sanctions-busting weapons tests by North Korea, which recently revised its laws to declare itself an "irreversible" nuclear power.
South Korea said the intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) flew some 4,500 kilometres (2,800 miles) -- possibly a new distance record for North Korean tests, which are usually conducted on a lofted trajectory to avoid flying over neighbouring countries.
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol called the launch a "provocation" that violated UN regulations, and vowed a "stern response", in a statement issued by his office.
Later Tuesday, South Korean and US fighter jets carried out a "precision bombing drill" in response, Seoul's military said, with South Korean F-15Ks dropping joint direct attack munitions (JDAMs) at a target in the Yellow Sea.
The drills aimed to demonstrate the allies' "capabilities to conduct a precision strike at the origin of provocations", South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.
On the same day, eight Japanese and four US fighter jets carried out a joint drill in airspace west of the country's Kyushu region, according to Japan's Joint Staff.
The forces "confirmed their readiness and demonstrated domestically and abroad the strong determination of Japan and the United States to deal with any situation", it said in a statement.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida described Pyongyang's latest test as "an act of violence", while European Union head Charles Michel called it "an unjustified aggression".
The US State Department said the "reckless and dangerous launch" posed "an unacceptable threat to the Japanese public".
Japanese Defence Minister Yasukazu Hamada said the missile could have been a Hwasong-12.
Pyongyang used Hwasong-12s the last two times it fired missiles over Japan -- in August and September 2017 -- tweeted Chad O'Carroll of specialist site NK News.
- Nuclear message -
"As these are missiles that can carry nuclear warheads, the launch also has a political goal of once again declaring North Korea a de facto nuclear power and showing its complete denuclearisation is impossible," Park added.
Seoul, Tokyo and Washington have been ramping up joint military drills to counter Pyongyang's growing threats, staging the first trilateral anti-submarine drills in five years Friday.
That came just days after the US and South Korean navies conducted large-scale exercises.
US Vice President Kamala Harris visited Seoul last week and toured the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone that divides the Korean peninsula, on a trip to underscore her country's "ironclad" commitment to South Korea's defence.
- Significant escalation -
"Pyongyang is still in the middle of a provocation and testing cycle," he added.
South Korean and US officials have been warning for months that Kim is preparing to conduct another nuclear test, saying last week that this could happen soon after Pyongyang's key ally China holds a Communist Party congress from October 16.
Pyongyang has tested nuclear weapons six times since 2006, most recently in 2017.
"North Korea always starts with a low-level provocation and gradually raises the level to attract media attention from all over the world," said Go Myong-hyun, a researcher at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies.