SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Japan says missiles fired by North Korea flew over northern Japan on Thursday, the latest in a series of weapons tests that have raised tensions in the region.
The announcement by Japan’s Prime Minister’s Office came shortly after South Korea’s military said it detected North Korea launching at least one ballistic missile toward its eastern sea.
Japan said more than one missile was fired, although it didn’t immediately say how many. It said the missiles flew over its territory and landed in the Pacific Ocean.
The Prime Minister’s Office issued warnings to residents in the northern prefectures of Miyagi, Yamagata and Niigata, instructing them to go inside firm buildings or go underground. There have been no reports of damage or injuries from areas where the alerts were issued.
Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff didn’t immediate confirm what type of missile it detected or how far the weapon flew.
The launches came a day after North Korea fired more than 20 missiles, the most it has fired in a single day ever. One of those missile flew in the direction of a populated South Korean island and landed near the rivals' tense sea border, triggering air raid sirens and forcing residents in Ulleung island to evacuate. South Korea quickly responded by launching its own missiles in the same border area.
Wednesday's launches came hours after North Korea threatened to use nuclear weapons to get the U.S. and South Korea to “pay the most horrible price in history” in protest of ongoing South Korean-U.S. military drills that it views as a rehearsal for a potential invasion.
North Korea last flew a missile over Japan in October in what it described as test of a new intermediate range ballistic missile, which experts say potentially would be capable of reaching Guam, a major U.S. military hub in the Pacific. That launch forced the Japanese government to issue evacuation alerts and halt trains.
North Korea has been ramping up its weapons demonstrations to a record pace this year. It has fired dozens of missiles, including its first demonstration of intercontinental ballistic missiles since 2017, as it exploits the distraction created by Russia’s war in Ukraine to push forward arms development.
The North has punctuated its tests with an escalatory nuclear doctrine that authorizes preemptive nuclear attacks over a variety of loosely defined crisis situations. U.S. and South Korean officials say North Korea may up the ante in the coming weeks with its first detonation of a nuclear test device since September 2017.
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