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North Korea fires missile over Japan’s Hokkaido Island

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A man at a railway station in Seoul walks past a screen showing a news graphic of a North Korean missile launch on Sept. 15, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

North Korea has fired yet another missile over Japan, Japanese and Korean media say, a few hours after Pyongyang threatened to "sink" its south eastern neighbor.

The missile launch from Pyongyang on early Friday prompted officials to ask people in the Japanese island of Hokkaido to take shelter, local media reported.

The missile flew for about 20 minutes before crashing into the Pacific Ocean about 2,000 kilometers east of Hokkaido at around 7 am local time, the Japanese state broadcaster NHK reported, citing government officials.

“North Korea fired an unidentified missile eastward from the vicinity of Pyongyang this morning,” the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said. The unknown missile reached an altitude of 770 km and covered a distance of 3,700 km during its flight, according to the South Korean military.

The South’s military officials said they were working with their American counterparts to analyze the details of the launch.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe both called their ministers to hold urgent national security council meetings following the launch.

Abe said Japan will "never tolerate" what he described as North Korea's "dangerous provocative action that threatens world peace."

Moon said the new move by Pyongyang would only lead to further diplomatic and economic isolation.

"President Moon ordered officials to closely analyze and prepare for new possible North Korean threats like EMP (electro-magnetic pulse) and biochemical attacks," Moon's spokesman Park Su-hyun told reporters.

The Japanese government's alert message called J-alert notifying citizens of a ballistic missile launch by North Korea is seen on a TV screen in Tokyo, Japan, on September 15, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)

According to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency, the country’s military forces also conducted a ballistic missile drill in the Japan Sea, known as the East Sea, in response to the missile alert.

Washington reacts

The Pentagon confirmed the launch and said the projectile was an intermediate range ballistic missile (IRBM).

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the launch was “provocative” and the threats against Japan would only “deepen North Korea’s diplomatic and economic isolation.”  

Pyongyang had threatened to “sink” Japan earlier on Thursday, saying the country "no longer needed to exist near us." The move came less than three weeks after the North fired another missile over Japanese territories.

Unsettled by the move in late August, Abe called on US President Donald Trump and other Western leaders to increase pressure on Pyongyang in order to stop its development of ballistic missiles.

The pressure peaked in early September, when the North announced that it had successfully exploded a hydrogen bomb, its sixth overall thermonuclear test.

The United Nation Security Council adopted new sanctions against the North as a result, a move that Pyongyang warned would not go unanswered.

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Emergency UN Security Council meeting

Meanwhile, UN diplomats said the UN Security Council will hold an emergency meeting at 3 pm (1900 GMT) on Friday concerning North Korea's latest missile launch over Japan. The session, which will be held behind closed doors, was requested by the US and Japan.

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