North Korea added to its barrage of recent weapons tests on Thursday, firing at least three missiles, including an intercontinental ballistic missile that forced the Japanese government to issue evacuation alerts and temporarily halt trains.
The launches are the latest in a series of North Korean weapons tests in recent months that have raised tensions in the region. They came a day after Pyongyang, the most it has fired in a single day ever.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said it detected the North firing an ICBM from an area near its capital Pyongyang around 7:40 a.m. and then firing two short-range missiles an hour later from the nearby city of Kacheon that flew toward its eastern waters.
The longer-range missile was fired on a high angle, apparently to avoid reaching the territory of neighbors, reaching a maximum altitude of 1,920 kilometers (1,193 miles) and traveling around 760 kilometers (472 miles), according to South Korea’s military.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether the launch was successful.
Japan’s Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada announced similar flight details but said that his military lost track of the weapon after it “disappeared” in skies above waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan.
On Oct. 4, North Koreafor the first time in five years.
Choi Yong Soo, a South Korean Navy captain who handles public affairs for Seoul’s Defense Ministry, didn’t answer directly when asked whether the military believes the launch might have failed with the missile exploding in midair, saying that the test was still being analyzed.
Citing anonymous military sources, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported that the missile possibly failed to maintain normal flight following a stage separation.
The Japanese government initially feared that the ICBM would fly over its northern territory, but later revised its assessment, saying there were no overflies.
The office of Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida broadcast alerts through television, radio, mobile phones and public loudspeakers to residents in the northern prefectures of Miyagi, Yamagata and Niigata, instructing them to go inside firm buildings or underground.
There have been no reports of damage or injuries from areas where the alerts were issued. Bullet train services in those regions were temporarily suspended following the missile alert before resuming shortly. Kishida condemned the North’s launches and said officials were analyzing the details of the weapons.
The office of South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said his national security director Kim Sung-han discussed the launches during an emergency security meeting where members talked about plans to strength the country’s defense in conjunction with its alliance with the United States.
The office said South Korea will maintain its combined military exercises with the United States in response to North Korea’s intensifying testing activity, which it said would only deepen the North’s international isolation and unleash further economic shock on its people.
One of the more than 20 missiles North Korea shot on Wednesday flew in the direction of a populated South Korean island and landed near the rivals’ tense sea border, triggering air raid sirens and forcing residents on Ulleung island to evacuate. South Korea quickly responded by launching its own missiles in the same border area.
Those launches came hours after North Korea threatened to useto get the U.S. and South Korea to “pay the most horrible price in history” in protest of ongoing South Korean-U.S. military drills that it views as a rehearsal for a potential invasion.
In a statement Wednesday night, a U.S. State Department spokesperson condemned the launch, calling it a “clear violation of multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions.”
“This action underscores the need for all countries to fully implement DPRK related UN Security Council resolutions, which are intended to prohibit the DPRK from acquiring the technologies and materials needed to carry out these destabilizing tests,” the statement read.
In September, North Korea’s parliament unveiled a new “first use” doctrine in which Pyongyang could launch a preemptive nuclear strike. That drew concern among America’s regional allies of Japan and South Korea. The two Koreas are technically still in a state of war, and Seoul relies on the U.S. for protection.
The last attempt at diplomacy under the Trump administration collapsed after a high profile summit between President Trump and Kim in Hanoi, Vietnam, in February 2019. While the two leaders celebrated their personal connections, no deal was brokered and North Korea’s nuclear development continued. The Biden administration’s outreach has also fallen short.