North Korea fires missile, Japan withdraws warning

SEOUL/TOKYO, April 13 (Reuters) – North Korea fired an intermediate-range or longer missile on Thursday, prompting South Korea and Japan to alert residents of Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido.

Japanese officials later retracted the warning, saying the country’s J-Alert emergency warning system made an incorrect prediction that the missile would land near the island.

The missile flew about 1,000 km (620 miles), which South Korea’s military said was a “serious provocation”. Neither the apogee nor the maximum altitude of the missile has been disclosed.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said his government would hold a National Security Council meeting on the launch.

Japan’s Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said the missile appeared to have been launched at a high angle to the east. He said the missile did not land in Japan’s territory and the Defense Ministry was investigating the launch for more details.

The Japan Coast Guard said the missile landed in the sea east of North Korea. Hamada said he could not confirm whether the missile flew over Japan’s exclusive economic zone.

There have been issues with J-Alert before.

In October, an evacuation alert was issued when a missile flew over Japan, but it came so late that most people didn’t know about it until after the missile fell in the Pacific.

A month later, a warning was mistakenly issued that a missile had landed in Japan.

On Thursday, a student told Japanese broadcaster NHK that the warning caused a temporary alert at a train station in Hokkaido.

“There was a moment of panic on the train, but a station employee told them to calm down and people did,” said the person, whom NHK did not name.

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The launch came days after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called for the country’s military deterrence to be strengthened in a “more practical and offensive” manner to counter Pyongyang’s so-called aggressive moves by the United States.

The missile was fired at 7:23 a.m. (2223 GMT Wednesday) from near Pyongyang, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

The South Korean military said it was on high alert and coordinating closely with the US.

North Korea has criticized recent joint military exercises between the US and South Korea as raising tensions, and has stepped up its weapons tests in recent months.

Reporting by Hyunsu Yim, Ju-min Park and Soo-hyang Choi in Seoul, Sang-Ron Kim in Tokyo; Written by Gerry Doyle; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman, Neil Fullick and William Mallard

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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