North Korea Launched Ballistic Missile Over Japan: Pentagon

According to Pyongyang, this photo shows a Hwasong-14 ICBM being launched on July 4 in North Korea. (KCNA via AP)
According to Pyongyang, this photo shows a Hwasong-14 ICBM being launched on July 4 in North Korea. (KCNA via AP)

North Korea has launched a ballistic missile over Japan, the U.S. Defense Department confirmed Monday.

"We assess North Korea conducted a missile launch within the last 90 minutes," U.S. Army Col. Rob Manning said in a statement. "We can confirm that the missile launched by North Korea flew over Japan. We are still in the process of assessing this launch."

North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), which tracks such threats, concluded the launch didn't pose a threat to the U.S., he added.

"We are working closely with Pacific Command, Strategic Command and NORAD and will provide an update as soon as possible," Manning said.

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The Pentagon statement didn't specify what type of missile was launched, though some observers speculated it may have been a KN17/Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile.

The missile was launched at 5:58 a.m. local time and flew over Hokkaido, Japan's second-largest island and the most northern prefecture, at 6:06 a.m. and splashed down in the Pacific Ocean at 6:12 a.m., according Martyn Williams, a senior correspondent at IDG News Service, citing information from Japanese public broadcaster NHK.

The projectile reportedly broke apart into three pieces.

South Korea's military also confirmed the launch, according to the Yonhap News Agency. The projectile was fired from the vicinity of Sunan in Pyongyang and flew east at a distance of some 2,700 kilometers (1,678 miles), the agency reported, citing information from the joint chiefs of staff.

The Japanese government issued alerts to citizens in the northern regions "to take cover," CNN reported.

The missile firing comes at an especially tense time -- just two days after the North fired a trio of short-range missiles and as the U.S. and the South Korean militaries conduct joint military exercises.

U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to unleash "fire and fury" on North Korea if dictator Kim Jong Un followed through on threats to fire missiles at Guam, where the U.S. maintains air force and naval bases.

North Korea this year successfully tested two intercontinental ballistic missiles it claimed were capable of reaching the continental U.S.

-- Brendan McGarry can be reached at brendan.mcgarry@military.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.

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