North Korea fires suspected ballistic missile towards Japan

Japan warns residents to seek shelter

Footage of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on a screen at Seoul Railway Station, South Korea, on April 11. AP
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North Korea fired a suspected ballistic missile towards water off its east coast on Thursday morning, prompting a warning in Japan for residents to take shelter from the threat.

The missile is likely to fall off the coast of Japan’s main northern island of Hokkaido at about 8am, officials said.

The launch adds to North Korea’s blistering pace of missile tests so far this year after a record number in 2022.

The latest launch came after leader Kim Jong-un this week called for “practical and offensive” war capabilities as his state issued a new warning to the US and cut communications links with South Korea, which are normally used to reduce tension on their heavily armed border.

The missile launch was the first since late March.

The state had already fired 15 ballistic missiles from February 18 to just before the latest launch, which included two intercontinental ballistic missiles designed to deliver a nuclear warhead to the US mainland.

North Korea on Saturday is set to celebrate the birthday of state founder Kim Il-sung, who is the grandfather of the current leader. The day is one of the biggest events on the country’s calendar.

North Korea fires at least 10 missiles - in pictures

Mr Kim’s regime on March 16 fired what it said was a Hwasong-17 ICBM hours before South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol went to Japan for a summit to repair ties and improve security co-operation with their mutual US ally.

Mr Kim said that launch was meant to “strike fear into the enemies” as the US increases its joint military exercises with South Korea.

In late March, North Korea released photos of him inspecting the state’s biggest display of warheads since he took power about a decade ago, indicating the leader has no intention of abandoning his atomic arsenal.

Weapons experts said the images indicate Pyongyang has made progress in miniaturising its warheads and could lead to more testing to verify their capabilities.

Updated: April 13, 2023, 4:21 AM