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South Korea and Japan reported that North Korea had launched a ballistic missile of intermediate range or longer. The launch prompted an alert for residents in Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido to take cover. However, Japanese authorities later retracted the warning, stating that the J-Alert emergency warning system had made an erroneous prediction that the missile would fall near the island. The missile traveled about 1,000 km (620 miles), which South Korea’s military called a “grave provocation.” The apogee or maximum altitude of the missile is unknown.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan announced that the government would hold a National Security Council meeting on the launch. Japan’s defense minister, Yasukazu Hamada, said the missile appeared to have been fired eastward at a high angle, and it did not fall in Japanese territory. The defense ministry is analyzing the launch for more details. Japan’s coast guard reported that the projectile had fallen in the sea to the east of North Korea. Hamada said that he could not confirm whether the missile flew over Japan’s exclusive economic zone.

There have been previous problems with J-Alert. In October, an evacuation warning was issued when a missile overflew Japan, but it came so late that most people were not aware of it until the projectile had fallen into the Pacific. A month later, a warning was erroneously issued, saying that a missile had overflown Japan.

The launch occurred days after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called for strengthening the country’s war deterrence in a “more practical and offensive” manner to counter what Pyongyang called moves of aggression by the United States. The missile was fired at 7:23 a.m. (2223 GMT on Wednesday) from near Pyongyang, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said. The South Korean military is on high alert and coordinating closely with the United States. North Korea has criticized a recent series of joint military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea, escalating tensions and stepping up its weapons tests in recent months.

Source: Reuters

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