By Jack Kim and Kaori Kaneko
SEOUL/TOKYO (Reuters) – North Korea fired a missile over Japan and far out into the Pacific Ocean on Friday for the second time in under a month, again challenging the United States and other world powers to rein in Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear programs.
Amid international condemnations of the test, the U.N. Security Council was to meet later in the day to discuss the launch at the request of the United States and Japan, diplomats said.
The missile flew over Hokkaido in the north and landed in the Pacific about 2,000 km (1,240 miles) to the east, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters.
It traveled about 3,700 km (2,300 miles) in total, according to South Korea‘s military – far enough to reach the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam, which the North has threatened before.
“The range of this test was significant since North Korea demonstrated that it could reach Guam with this missile,” the Union of Concerned Scientists advocacy group said in a statement.
But it said the accuracy of the missile, still at an early stage of development, was low.
North Korea has launched dozens of missiles under leader Kim Jong Un as it accelerates a weapons program designed to give it the ability to target the United States with a powerful, nuclear-tipped missile.
Two tests in July were for long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching at least parts of the U.S. mainland. North Korea also staged its sixth and most powerful nuclear bomb test earlier this month.
Warning announcements about the most recent missile blared around 7 a.m. (2200 GMT Thursday) in parts of northern Japan, while many residents received alerts on their mobile phones or saw warnings on TV telling them to seek refuge.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said the launch “put millions of Japanese into duck and cover”, although people in northern Japan seemed calm and went about business as normal.
The U.S. military said soon after the launch it had detected a single intermediate range ballistic missile but the missile did not pose a threat to North America or Guam, which lies 3,400 km (2,110 miles) from North Korea.
The missile reached an altitude of about 770 km (480 miles) and flew for about 19 minutes, according to South Korea‘s military.
U.S. SEEKS ‘NEW MEASURES’
U.S. officials repeated Washington’s “ironclad” commitments to the defense of its allies. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called for “new measures” against North Korea and said the “continued provocations only deepen North Korea‘s diplomatic and economic isolation”.
U.S. disarmament ambassador Robert Wood said Washington wanted to exhaust every diplomatic option on North Korea‘s nuclear and missile programs and to see loopholes in sanctions against North Korean closed. Speaking in Geneva, he said the United States was not taking the option of war or a military strike off the table.
A poll by Gallup Analytics suggested a majority of Americans appeared ready to support military action against North Korea, at least as a last resort. Some 58 percent said they would favor taking military action if economic and diplomatic efforts failed to achieve U.S. goals. Gallup said this was up from 47 percent in favor the last time the group asked this, in 2003.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in said dialogue with the North was impossible at this point. He ordered officials to analyze and prepare for possible new North Korean threats, including electromagnetic pulse and biochemical attacks, a spokesman said.
Russia said the missile test was part of a series of unacceptable provocations and that the U.N. Security Council was united in believing such launches should not be taking place.
President Vladimir Putin discussed the launch in a phone call with French President Emanuel Macron and agreed on the need for a diplomatic solution, including through resuming direct talks on North Korea, the Kremlin said in a statement.
On global markets, shares and other risk assets barely moved and gold fell on Friday as traders paid little attention to the latest missile test, shifting their focus to where and when interest rates will go up.
The Security Council was to meet at 3 p.m. ET (1900 GMT), diplomats said, just days after its 15 members unanimously stepped up sanctions against North Korea over its Sept. 3 nuclear test.
Those sanctions imposed a ban on North Korea‘s textile exports and capped its imports of crude oil.
Last month, North Korea fired an intermediate range missile from a similar area near the capital Pyongyang that also flew over Hokkaido into the ocean and said more would follow.
“The first time was unexpected, but I think people are getting used to this as the new normal,” said Andrew Kaz, who teaches English in Kushiro City in Hokkaido. “The most it seemed to disrupt was my coffee.”
South Korea said it had fired a missile test into the sea to coincide with North Korea‘s launch and the presidential Blue House has called an urgent National Security Council meeting. Japan also convened a National Security Council meeting.
Pyongyang had threatened a day earlier to sink Japan and reduce the United States to “ashes and darkness” for supporting the U.N. Security Council’s latest resolution and sanctions.
The North accuses the United States, which has 28,500 troops in South Korea, of planning to invade and regularly threatens to destroy it and its Asian allies.
The United States and South Korea are technically still at war with North Korea because the 1950-53 Korean conflict ended with a truce and not a peace treaty.
U.S. President Donald Trump had been briefed on the latest launch, the White House said.
Trump has vowed that North Korea will never be allowed to threaten the United States with a nuclear-tipped missile, but has also asked China to do more to rein in its neighbor. China in turn favors an international response to the problem.
“China and Russia must indicate their intolerance for these reckless missile launches by taking direct actions of their own,” Tillerson said.
China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, denied that China held the key to easing tension on the peninsula and said that duty lay with the parties directly involved.
“Any attempt to wash their hands of the issue is irresponsible and unhelpful for its resolution,” she said, reiterating China’s position that sanctions are only effective if paired with talks.