(Kanga Kong, Bloomberg) – Japan moved to the highest possible alert level after North Korea fired four ballistic missiles simultaneously into nearby waters, the latest provocation from Kim Jong Un’s regime.
Three of the missiles fell into Japan’s exclusive economic zone, with one dropping about 350 kilometers west of the nation’s northern Akita prefecture, government spokesman Yoshihide Suga told reporters after a meeting of Japan’s National Security Council. Authorities were still analyzing the type of missile launched, he said.
The launches “clearly show that this is a new level of threat” from North Korea, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told lawmakers in Tokyo. American officials held phone calls afterward with counterparts in Japan and South Korea, which rely on the U.S. for security.
“North Korea’s nuclear and missile capabilities have really improved, and they are becoming more difficult to predict,” Abe said. The missiles “are getting closer to Japan’s waters and territory.”
While North Korea routinely test-fires missiles — including more than two dozen last year — the timing of these launches is particularly sensitive. Tensions have escalated in recent weeks between China and South Korea over American plans to deploy a missile-defense system known as Thaad on the peninsula, part of measures to thwart Kim from gaining the ability to strike the continental U.S. with a nuclear warhead.