North Korea Fires Missile Over Japan

North Korea fired a ballistic missile over Japan on Tuesday morning for the first time in five years. The launch occurred without warning and is considered a highly provocative resurgent act by the reclusive communist country in testing its nuclear weapons capabilities.

The missile traveled over Japanese airspace in the northern part of the country before landing in the Pacific Ocean. The launch was the 23rd missile test in 2022 by North Korea, but the first that encroached on Japanese airspace since 2017.

North Korea has significantly expanded its missile testing this year, as it sent up only eight missiles in 2021 and four in 2020.

Military intelligence reported that the missile traveled around 2,850 miles and reached a maximum altitude of over 620 miles. It achieved a top speed of Mach 17, that being 17 times the speed of sound, or more than 13,000 miles per hour.

The U.S. and South Korean militaries scrambled fighter jets which fired weapons at a target off of the west coast of South Korea in a show of force after the North Korean launch.

The distance the missile launched Tuesday far exceeds the distance from North Korea to the island of Guam, the nearest U.S. territory that sits about 2,100 miles away. It is unknown if the missile had a longer-range capacity, raising concerns that the North Koreans might be working on ballistic systems that could reach the U.S. mainland.

North Korea’s recent tests have typically sent missiles into the ocean near the coast of the Korean Peninsula, which made the Tuesday test much more symbolic and internationally provocative. If the test had failed, the missile could have easily threatened major Japanese population areas.

North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un said earlier this year that his nation planned to develop its long-range nuclear arsenal at the “highest possible speed.”

North Korea conducted a separate missile test shortly before Vice President Kamala Harris left South Korea last week, when she visited the demilitarized zone at the border between north and south. While Harris was on the peninsula, she made an embarrassing gaffe by saying the U.S. was a proud ally of North Korea. She reportedly meant to say “South Korea” and erred.

Nuclear disarmament talks and other diplomatic efforts with the North Koreans have come to a halt since the end of the Trump administration.