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Trump: ‘All options are on the table’ after North Korean missile launch over Japan

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has warned that “all options are on the table” after North Korea launched a missile over Japan early Tuesday.

The missile was fired just before 6 a.m. in Japan, where the launch set off warnings in the northern part of the country urging people to seek shelter.

“The world has received North Korea’s latest message loud and clear,” Trump said in a statement. “This regime has signaled its contempt for its neighbors, for all members of the United Nations, and for minimum standards of acceptable international behavior.”

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also denounced Tuesday’s launch, saying it represented a “most serious and grave” threat.

The unidentified missile flew over Erimomisaki, on the northern island of Hokkaido, and broke into three pieces before falling into the Pacific Ocean, about 733 miles off the Japanese coast.

The missile was in flight for about 15 minutes, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at an emergency press conference.

“There is no immediate report of the fallen objects and no damage to the ships and aircraft,” he said.

Tuesday’s launch is the first time North Korea has successfully fired a ballistic missile over Japan.

Various stages of launch vehicles have overflown Japan during Pyongang’s attempts to launch satellites into space in 1998, 2009, 2012 and 2016.

This is the fourth missile North Korea has fired in four days. Pyongyang tested three short-range ballistic missiles, one of which failed, from Kangwon province that landed in water off the Korean Peninsula.

This time, the missile was launched near the capital of Pyongyang, a move that is rare and highly provocative.

The test shows the mobility of North Korea’s arsenal, and might have been intended to deliver a message that pre-emptive U.S. strikes on missile launch facilities could land uncomfortably close to civilians.

North Korea has launched missiles from various positions across the country in recent months, and it possesses trucks that have been converted into transporter-erector-launchers — vehicles for quickly deploying and launching missiles — including some from China.

It also is developing missiles that use solid fuel, which are much quicker to deploy than their liquid-fueled counterparts.

Soon after the launch, Abe called it a “unprecedented serious and grave threat to Japan” that “significantly undermines the peace and security of the region.”

The Japanese leader said he spoke with Trump for 40 minutes.

“Japan and the U.S. completely agreed that an emergency meeting at the U.N. Security Council should be held immediately and increase the pressure towards North Korea,” Abe said.

Trump reiterated that the United States “stands with Japan 100 percent,” Abe said.

While the missile flew over Japanese territory, one analyst said it wasn’t necessarily intended as a threat to Japan.

“If they’re going to launch to a distance, they’ve got to go over somebody. It looks to me like a risk reduction measure, they want to reduce the populated areas they fly over just in case anything goes wrong,” said Joshua Pollack, a senior research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.

South Korea responded by conducting a bombing drill to test its “capability to destroy the North Korean leadership” in cases of emergency, an official with the country’s Defense Ministry said.

Yoon Young-chan, the head of South Korea’s Presidential Public Affairs Office, said four F-15K fighter jets dropped eight one-ton MK-84 bombs at a shooting range.

The operation was meant “to showcase a strong punishment capability against the North,” he said.

“We are fully ready to counter any threat from North Korea and will make unwavering efforts to protect the lives of our people and the security of our nation,” South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho June-hyuck said.

Analysts believe Tuesday’s launch shows a new level of confidence from the North Koreans.

“It is a big deal that they overflew Japan, which they have carefully avoided doing for a number of years, even though it forced them to test missiles on highly lofted trajectories, and forced them to launch their satellites to the south, which is less efficient than launching to the east (due to the Earth’s rotational motion),” said David Wright, co-director of the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Pyongyang’s missile tests are banned under United Nations Security Council resolutions, but that hasn’t stopped North Korean leader Kim Jong Un from attempting to rapidly develop his country’s nuclear and missile programs.

This time, the missile was launched near the North Korean capital of Pyongyang, which is rare.

Minutes after the missile was launched, residents in northern Japan received a text message urging them to seek shelter in a strong structure or a basement.

“We were awoken by sirens and messages from the government telling us to take cover,” a resident said.

China, North Korea’s only real ally and economic patron, called for restraint from relevant parties.

“China urges the relevant parties not to take actions that would provoke one another and escalate tensions in the region,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.