SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea fired another missile over the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido on Friday morning, just a day after Pyongyang said that Japan “should be sunken into the sea” with a nuclear bomb and that the United States should be “beaten to death” with a stick “fit for a rabid dog.”

This was the second time in less than three weeks that North Korea sent a ballistic missile over Japan, and the launch came less than two weeks after North Korea exploded what is widely believed to be a hydrogen bomb.

The latest launch immediately sparked angry reactions from Tokyo and Seoul. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the international community had to unite to punish Kim Jong Un’s regime, calling this week’s U.N. Security Council sanctions “the floor, not the ceiling.”

“China supplies North Korea with most of its oil. Russia is the largest employer of North Korean forced labor,” Tillerson said in a statement, singling out the two veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council, which are also the closest thing to allies that North Korea has.

“China and Russia must indicate their intolerance for these reckless missile launches by taking direct actions of their own,” he said.

The missile was launched from the Sunan airfield just north of Pyongyang about 6:30 a.m. local time, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said. It flew 2,300 miles over 17 minutes, passing over Hokkaido and landing some 1,200 miles to the east in the Pacific Ocean.


The launch immediately triggered emergency alerts in Japan, with text messages and loud speakers telling residents beneath the missile’s potential flight path to seek shelter.

The Japanese government warned people not to approach any debris or other suspicious-looking material, a reflection of the fact that North Korean missiles sometimes break up in flight.

Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, condemned the latest launch in “the strongest terms possible” and reiterated that Japan would “not tolerate” North Korea’s actions. But Japan did not try to shoot down the missile.

South Korea, however, immediately fired one of its Hyunmoo-II missiles 155 miles into the sea – the same distance it would have had to travel to reach the Sunan airfield.

In Washington, the White House said President Trump was briefed on the latest North Korean missile launch by his chief of staff, John Kelly.

The missile did not pose a threat to North America or to the U.S. territory of Guam, the U.S. Pacific Command said. The Pacific island of Guam is home to large Air Force and Navy bases and was the target of North Korea’s recent rhetorical threats.


“We continue to monitor North Korea’s actions closely,” the Pacific Command said in a statement.

Friday’s launch appeared similar to the previous launch, on Aug. 29. On that day, North Korea fired a Hwasong-12 – an intermediate-range ballistic missile technically capable of flying 3,000 miles, enough to reach Guam – from the Sunan airfield. But it also flew to the east, over Hokkaido and into the Pacific Ocean, rather than on a southward path toward Guam.

Analysts said that after testing its missiles by firing them straight up and having them crash into the sea between the Korean Peninsula and Japan, North Korea was apparently testing its missiles’ flight on a normal trajectory without crossing a “red line” of aiming at the United States.

On Thursday, a North Korean state agency had issued an alarming threat to what it offensively called the “wicked Japs.”

“The four islands of the [Japanese] archipelago should be sunken into the sea by [our] nuclear bomb,” a spokesman for the Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee said in a statement carried by the official news agency. Hokkaido is the northernmost of Japan’s four main islands.

“Japan is no longer needed to exist near us,” the committee spokesman said.


This is the first missile launch since North Korea conducted a huge nuclear test Sept. 3, which analysts say appeared to live up to Pyongyang’s claim that the device that was exploded was a hydrogen bomb, exponentially more powerful than a normal atomic device.

That test, combined with the rapid pace of missile launches and North Korea’s stated goal of wanting to be able to strike the mainland United States with a nuclear-tipped missile, has caused alarm around the world.

The U.N. Security Council imposed its toughest-ever sanctions against North Korea on Monday, setting limits on North Korea’s oil imports and banning its textile exports. But the new sanctions were a compromise. The United States had to tone down its demands, which included a total oil embargo and a global travel ban on leader Kim Jong Un, in order to win the support of China and Russia.

Tillerson’s statement reflected the Trump administration’s frustration with the reluctance of Beijing and Moscow to inflict real pain on Pyongyang.

The North Korean statement that hit out at Japan also, meanwhile, reflected Pyongyang’s anger at what it called the “heinous sanctions resolution.”

The North Korean people and military wanted “the Yankees, chief culprit in cooking up the ‘sanctions resolution,’ [to] be beaten to death as a stick is fit for a rabid dog,” the statement said.


The Sept. 3 nuclear test, North Korea’s sixth, is now widely assumed to have been a test of a hydrogen bomb, as Pyongyang claimed in its state propaganda.

The Japanese government estimates that the force of that nuclear explosion was 160 kilotons – more than 10 times the size of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima – but some analysts have said its yield could have been as much as 250 kilotons.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, traveling from Washington to view U.S. nuclear weapons at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, said Wednesday that the North Korean nuclear test appeared to be “100 kilotons or more.” “It’s a large one,” he said.

Earlier, Air Force Gen. John Hyten, the chief of U.S. Strategic Command, said that he “had to assume” that North Korea had probably tested a hydrogen bomb, based on the size of the explosion.

Speaking just before the missile was launched, Hyten, who oversees U.S. nuclear forces and monitors North Korea, told reporters that the size, yield and other indications seen in North Korea’s most recent nuclear test “equates to a hydrogen bomb.”

He said he could not confirm that a hydrogen bomb was tested but said the test was significant “because of the sheer destruction and damage you can use and create with a weapon of that size.”


“The change from the original atomic bomb to the hydrogen [bomb] changed our entire deterrent relationship with the Soviet Union,” Hyten said. “It is significantly of concern not just to Strategic Command but to everybody in the free world. It should be of concern to people in the neighborhood, which is Japan and Korea, as well as China and Russia.”

Hyten said that if North Korea can mount a bomb of that power on a missile, it could potentially destroy a city. The United States has the ability to deter a nuclear attack on itself or its allies because of the nuclear weapons it maintains, Hyten said, but it’s a “different question” whether the United States can stop North Korea from building them.

Hyten said that the United States still has not seen North Korea “put everything together” with a nuclear warhead mounted on an intercontinental ballistic missile but that it is only a matter of time before the North Koreans do so.

“Whether they have the ability, I don’t have any insight into that,” Hyten said. “I can just look at historic examples and say that it could be within months or it could be within years.”

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