By Jack Kim and William Mallard
SEOUL/TOKYO (Reuters) – North Korea fired a missile that flew over Japan’s northern Hokkaido far out into the Pacific Ocean on Friday, South Korean and Japanese officials said, further ratcheting up tensions after Pyongyang’s recent test of its most powerful nuclear bomb.
The missile flew over Japan and landed in the Pacific about 2,000 km (1,240 miles) east of Hokkaido, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters in a hastily organized media conference.
“These repeated provocations on the part of North Korea are impermissible and we protest in the strongest words,” Suga said.
Warning announcements about the missile blared around 7 a.m. (2200 GMT Thursday) in the town of Kamaishi, northern Japan, footage from national broadcaster NHK showed.
The missile reached an altitude of about 770 km (480 miles) and flew for about 19 minutes over a distance of about 3,700 km (2,300 miles), according to South Korea’s military – far enough to reach the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam.
(For graphic on North Korea’s missile and nuclear tests, click http://tmsnrt.rs/2vXbj0S)
The U.S. military said soon after that it had detected a single intermediate range ballistic missile.
North Korea has launched dozens of missiles under young 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.
“This rocket has meaning in that North Korea is pushing towards technological completion of its missiles and that North Korea may be feeling some pressure that they need to show the international community something,” said Yang Uk, a senior research fellow at the Korea Defence and Security Forum.
Last month, North Korea fired a missile from similar area near the capital Pyongyang that also flew over Hokkaido into the ocean. Two tests in July were for long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching at least parts of the U.S. mainland.
“ASHES AND DARKNESS”
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.
The North’s launch came a day after Pyongyang threatened to sink Japan and reduce the United States to “ashes and darkness” for supporting a U.N. Security Council resolution imposing new sanctions against it for its Sept. 3 nuclear test, its sixth…