A North Korean envoy has warned of catastrophic consequences in a new threat to the US after justifying the secretive country’s latest missile launch.
He added: And the US should be fully responsible for the catastrophic consequences it will entail.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un sparked fresh fears of military conflict after firing a ballistic missile which flew over Japanese territory before landing in the sea.
Japan said the missile was an unprecedented, grave threat to the nation and called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss how to respond.
The missile passed over northern Japan early on Tuesday and broke into three pieces before crashing off the east of Cape Ermino on Hokkaido, the government said.
The projectile was fired from an airport in the North Korean capital Pyongyang.
Japan’s J-Alert warning system was activated, sending a text message alert advising Hokkaido residents to take precautions, while loudspeakers urged people to take shelter underground.
Within hours, South Korea had carried out a simulated bombing campaign and, in a rare move, released footage of a test of new ballistic missiles launched last week.
The show of might involved four F-15K fighter jets, which dropped eight MK-84 bombs on targets at a military field near the border.
Footage of the bombing was accompanied by a threat from a senior military official who warned that the South would “exterminate” North Korea’s leadership if its citizens are threatened.
The South said the display was intended to show its capability to “punish” North Korea.
North Korea’s test was one of the most provocative ever from North Korea, and appeared to have involved a new intermediate-range Hwasong-12 missile.
The launch was held as US troops take part in military drills with Japanese forces in Hokkaido, and with South Korean soldiers on the peninsula.
The Japanese military did not attempt to shoot down the missile, which passed over Japanese territory around 6.06 am local time.
But aircraft began scouring the area for debris after the missile broke into pieces in the Pacific Ocean. South Korea’s military said the missile flew 1,680 miles, reaching an altitude of about 340 miles.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he would do all in his power to protect the Japanese public. He told reporters: North Korea’s reckless action is an unprecedented, serious and a grave threat to our nation.
Mr Abe said he spoke to US President Donald Trump on Tuesday and they agreed to increase pressure on North Korea. Mr Trump also said the United States was 100 percent with Japan, Abe told reporters.
A spokesman for South Korea’s foreign ministry said: We will respond strongly based on our steadfast alliance with the United States if North Korea continues nuclear and missile provocations.
But the North remained defiant.
North Korea’s official Rodong Sinmun newspaper wrote: The US should know that it can neither browbeat the DPRK with any economic sanctions and military threats and blackmails nor make the DPRK flinch from the road chosen by itself.
China, which has been urged to do more by Mr Trump and others, called for restraint on all sides and encouraged the US and North Korea to open talks.
After the missile was launched, the alert system was activated, bullet trains were halted and schools were shut.
Japanese broadcasters, including TBS, also warned residents of northern Japan to take cover underground.
The broadcaster wrote on Twitter: Missile launch. Missile launch. It seems that a missile has been fired from North Korea.
Please evacuate to a rugged building or underground. Target area Hokkaido Aomori Iwate Miyagi Akita Yamagata Fukushima Ibaraki Tochigi Gunma Niigata Nagano.
A video posted online by a PhD student called Joe revealed a message was also broadcast on a loudspeaker in the city of Hokkaido.
Loudspeakers and sirens were used in many northern towns to alert residents, sparking panic as some fled their houses and others didn’t know what to do.
Sapporo resident Ai Onodera, who was woken up by a warning message on her mobile phone, immediately called her husband, who was away for work.
The 33-year-old told Reuters: I was terrified that I wouldn’t see him again. American teacher Andrew Kaz, 24, who lives in Kushiro, added: I know this happened before but I feel small and rudderless.
Everything seems like business as usual, but you can tell people are shaken up.
He tweeted eerie footage of the announcement, adding: I woke up with a Siren and an announcement that North Korea launched a missile that would possibly hit cities within Hokkaido.
The launch comes just weeks after North Korea threatened to fire four Hwasong-12 missiles into the sea near the US territory of Guam after Mr Trump warned Pyongyang would face fire and fury” if it threatened America.
Pentagon spokesman Colonel Robert Manning told reporters: We can confirm that the missile launched by North Korea flew over Japan.
North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) determined the missile launch from North Korea did not pose a threat to North America.
Konstantin Kosachev, chair of Russia’s international affairs committee, wrote on social media: Alas, Pyongyang has demonstrated that its threats to the U.S. base on Guam are not a bluff.
North Korea is developing a nuclear weapon capable of hitting the US mainland. Tuesday’s launch is the first time North Korea has sent a missile over Japanese territory in almost 20 years.
The last time was in 1998, when North Korea tested a long-range Taepodong-1 missile sparking international outcry. There was some dispute about a rocket launch in 2009.
Pyongyang claimed it was a rocket carrying a communications satellite. But the US, Japan and South Korea considered it a ballistic missile test.