(NBC) North Korea fired a ballistic missile over Japan Tuesday for the first time in five years forcing Japan to issue evacuation notices and suspend trains during the flight of the nuclear-capable weapon that could reach the U.S. territory of Guam and possibly beyond.
The launch was the most provocative weapons demonstration by North Korea this year as it ramps up missile tests to build a full-fledged nuclear arsenal.
The missile’s estimated 2,800-mile flight was the longest by any North Korean missile, though the North has previously launched other potentially longer-range weapons at high angles to avoid neighboring countries.
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol earlier said the missile had an intermediate range, while Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said it was believed to have an intermediate-range or longer.
If Tuesday’s launch involves a long-range missile, that could be a test of a weapon targeting the U.S. homeland, some experts say.
Japanese authorities alerted residents in northeastern regions to evacuate to shelters, in the first “J-Alert” since 2017 when North Korea fired an intermediate-range Hwasong-12 missile twice over Japan in a span of weeks during its previous torrid run of weapons tests.
According to South Korean and Japanese estimates, the missile traveled at a maximum altitude of 600-620 miles and landed in the Pacific, about 1,900 miles off the northern Japanese coast and that there have been no reports of damage to Japanese aircraft and ships.
The U.S. said National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan had consulted with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts on their appropriate and robust responses.
In response, South Korea and U.S. warplanes conducted bombing drills.
South Korea’s military said it mobilized four F-15K fighter jets and dropped a pair of guided bombs on a target off its west coast, in what was described as a demonstration of precision strike capability.
The U.S. sent four F-16 fighter jets in the drills.