North Korea defied the international community early Monday morning with its most antagonistic missile test in recent years. Japanese citizens received text and social media notifications to find shelter as this latest missile launch arced over the Japanese island of Hokkaido. The missile reached an altitude of about 340 miles before breaking apart and falling into the Pacific Ocean nearly 1,700 miles from its launch site.
Ever since North Korea developed the ability to launch missiles into space it has only fired two others over Japanese territory, one in 1998 and another in 2009 – both of which were believed to be communication satellite launches. This launch is different as the missile involved is intended as an attack platform. As recently as July, North Korea has threatened to fire ballistic missiles over Japan to land near the U.S. territory of Guam as a show of force. This particular launch took a much different path, headed North and East and landing south of the Russian Kamchatka peninsula.
At 05:58 hours Tokyo time, a North Korean ballistic missile launch was detected by American and Japanese military forces. The launch originated from an area immediately north of Pyongyang from what appears to be a mobile launch vehicle. Only four minutes later, at 06:02, the Japanese government sent out text message and social media alerts to its citizens advising that a missile launch had been detected and was headed over Japanese territory. The message instructed citizens to find sturdy shelter or a basement to hide in. Warnings were also broadcast on radio and public television stations as well as locally by loud speakers. At 06:07 the missile passed over Hokkaido. Five minutes later, at 06:12, the missile plunged into the Pacific Ocean in three large pieces.
North Korean ballistic missile tests tend to be a much higher arc than traditional missile tests by other nations; much of this is attributable to limited testing avenues available to the regime. With China to the west, Russia to the north, South Korea to the south and Japan masking much of the east there are no channels available for lower arcing tests. To test a missile with a 3,000-mile range, North Korea has arced the missiles up to 2,300 miles up while they only travel 400-500 miles laterally, falling into the Sea of Japan. The August 28th launch did exactly the opposite, gaining under 400 miles of height while moving almost 1700 miles laterally. This type of testing is obviously more dangerous from a military readiness stand point and also poses an increased risk to civilians if the notoriously unreliable missiles fail during flight.
Gruntworks Media will continue to monitor the Korean peninsula and keep our readers updated.