On Thursday, North Korea fired an ICBM from an area near the capital Pyongyang at around 7.40am local time. This was followed by launches of two short-range ballistic missiles an hour later, according to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The first missile test triggered an emergency response in Japan after it initially said the missile flew over its territory, before retracting that assessment.
Tokyo issued evacuation alerts to thousands of residents living in the central prefectures of Miyagi, Yamagata and Niigata at 7.50am local time.
But it is unclear if the ICBM test was a success. Neighbour South Korea said the missile appeared to have failed during flight.
“North Korea’s ICBM launch is presumed to have ended in failure,” said the South Korean military, according to the Yonhap news agency.
The long-range missile was fired on a high angle, possibly to avoid making it land in the territory of its neighbours. The missile reached a maximum altitude of 1,920km and traveled 760km, according to the South Korean military.
But it failed during the second stage after the separation of the propellant and warhead sections, a defence source told the outlet.
The latest launches came a day after North Korea fired 23 – the most missiles in one day – including one projectile that landed close to South Korea’s waters, activating air-raid sirens to alert the country’s residents on Ulleungdo island to take cover.
South Korean president Yoon Suk-yeol said this was effectively “a territorial invasion by a missile”. It marked the first time since the division of the Korean peninsula in 1945 that North Korea’s weapons have landed so close to its neighbour’s territory – just 26km beyond the northern limit line.
The latest test triggered an alarm in Japan for the second time this year. Last month, North Korea launched a ballistic missile over Japan for the first time in five years.
Japan’s defence minister, Yasukazu Hamada, said his military lost track of the weapon after it “disappeared” in skies above the waters between the Korean peninsula and Japan.
He deplored North Korea for putting citizens in danger by flying a missile close to their territory.
In an updated statement, Japan said the missile did “not cross the Japanese archipelago, but disappeared over the Sea of Japan”.
Before the updated assessment, the office of Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida broadcast alerts through television, radio, mobile phones and public loudspeakers, urging people to go inside firm buildings or take cover underground.
Mr Kishida later slammed North Korea for “repeated missile launches” and called them an “outrage”.
The US, South Korea and Japan condemned the ICBM firing.
“This launch, in addition to the launch of multiple other ballistic missiles this week, is a flagrant violation of multiple UN Security Council resolutions and needlessly raises tensions and risks destabilising the security situation in the region,” Adrienne Watson, a spokesperson for the US National Security Council, said.
US secretary of state Antony Blinken held a telephone call with South Korean foreign minister Park Jin over Wednesday’s missile launches, including the one that “recklessly and dangerously” landed near the South Korean coastline, and stressed the “ironclad” US commitment to the security of its ally.
North Korea’s record number of launches this year – more than 60 missile launches overall – have increased tensions in the Korean peninsula at an unprecedented rate as fears grow that Kim Jong-un is ready to conduct a seventh nuclear test.
Its latest spree of tests in recent months is being considered a protest against Washington’s attempts to develop closer ties with its neighbours Japan and South Korea by holding several joint drills.