- As UN withdraws 30 aid workers from South Sudan, over fighting
North Korea fired another missile over the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido on Friday morning, just a day after Pyongyang threatened that the four main Japanese islands “should be sunken into the sea” by its nuclear bomb.
This was the second time in less than three weeks that North Korea sent a projectile over Japan, and the missile firing immediately sparked angry reactions in Tokyo and Seoul.
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 for 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 along 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 and reiterated that Japan would “not tolerate” North Korea’s actions. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had asked his government to “prepare for any contingency,” but Japan did not try to shoot down the missile.
In Washington, the White House said President Trump was briefed on the latest North Korean missile launch by his chief of staff, John F. Kelly.
On that day, North Korea fired a Hwasong-12 — an intermediate-range ballistic missile technically capable of flying 3,000 miles, enough to reach the U.S. territory of Guam — from the Sunan airfield. It flew to the east, over Hokkaido and into the Pacific Ocean, rather than on a southward path toward Guam.
But 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 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 Japan. “The four islands of the [Japanese] archipelago should be sunken into the sea by [our] nuclear bomb,” 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 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 it was a hydrogen bomb, exponentially more powerful than a normal atomic device.
The Aug. 29 missile launch, followed by the huge nuclear test, triggered tough new sanctions from the U.N. Security Council.
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.
Meanwhile, the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said on Thursday it has withdrawn 30 humanitarian aid workers in the wake of recent renewed fighting in Aburoc area of Upper Nile region.
The Head of UNMISS, David Shearer, said that they were forced to withdraw 30 aid workers following outbreak of fighting on Wednesday in Aburoc area.
This had put thousands of civilians at risk as government troop’s fight to dislodge rebels from the northern town.
“We are still unclear about exactly what is happening on the ground in terms of whether the fighting is ongoing or likely to carry on.
“What is important is for both parties to pull back, because there are a number of civilians there (Aburoc) that humanitarian organisations would have been supporting,” he said in Juba.
“I have been there and I have visited the area and the overwhelming numbers of them are women, children and older people.
“So, I would like the warring parties to pull back and allow those people to the safe sanctuary that they deserve and they need,” he said.
There are about 10,000 people including women and children left in the restive Aburoc area located along the Nile River banks.
In May, the UNMISS forces were temporarily deployed there to help with delivery of humanitarian aid following fighting between warring factions.
Shearer also disclosed that South Sudan’s worsening humanitarian crisis and peace deal revival efforts by the East African bloc, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), would be discussed at the ongoing 72nd UN General Assembly in New York.
He disclosed that the meeting will also highlight the importance of ending impunity for attacks against civilians and humanitarian aid workers.
He added that 18 aid workers were killed in South Sudan this year including the recent killing of a driver working with International Committee of the Red Cross in Central Equatoria.
“We hope for solidarity of purpose between the UN, AU and IGAD for those organisations to agree a steady commitment to reach political settlement, and support revitalisation of the peace process.
“I anticipate that the discussion will seem to run plans for the upcoming IGAD revitalisation forum in Addis Ababa,” he added.
Shearer noted that the ongoing national dialogue would be raised in New York.
The UN has already provided financial, logistical support besides bringing in a number of experts to train and advise the steering committee of the national dialogue.
“The UN sees the national dialogue as positive step in the overall pursuit of peace, as well as an opportunity to inject new life into the 2015 peace agreement.
However, for the national dialogue to be successful and enable free discussion and bring parties together, the cessation of hostilities is important,” he said.
Additional report from MSN