North Korea Fires Ballistic Missile Over Japan

Japan Made No Attempt to Shoot Down 'Unprecedented' Launch

Every North Korean missile test fuels a new round of tensions and threats from the US, but today’s North Korean test appears to be a particularly major feat in the nation’s missile program, as a Hwasong-12 missile was fired over Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido, and flew some 1,600 miles total before landing in the north Pacific.

The intermediate-range ballistic missile flew at a height of 550 km, and led to air raid sirens in northern Japan, with locals being warned to take shelter in basements. Japan says they made no attempt to try to shoot the missile down.

That North Korea would make such a launch attempt at all is a show of confidence in the maturity of this missile system. Previous missile tests have failed in flight, and a failure in a test over Japanese territory could’ve easily been disastrous, hitting Japanese soil and starting a war. Clearly, North Korea was comfortable they would not only fly over Hokkaido, but land some 750 miles east of the island,a major sign of the program’s development.

As North Korea’s missiles improve, the predictable US response of a new round of threats makes the possibility of a major war even graver, and analysts have agreed for months that there is no “good” military option with respect to North Korea.

North Korea were reporting that they’ve miniaturized their nuclear weapons to missile warheads, they have now also proven their ballistic missiles have advanced to the point that they can travel with some reliability to a distance of nearly 3,000 km.

That gives North Korea’s deterrent even more credibility, and while the Trump Administration has long emphasized that diplomacy has “failed,” it’s clear that escalating threats and military buildups have fared no better, and shows the US desperately needs to deescalate the situation before they find themselves in a disastrous war.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.