North Korea Missile Fired Over Japan Was in Range of U.S. Territory

A ballistic missile that North Korea fired over Japan on Tuesday reportedly had the range to reach United States territory, underscoring heightened tensions between North Korea and the U.S. over potential nuclear weapons use.

Japanese officials said that the missile flew more than 2,800 miles and had an altitude of about 621 miles, CNN reported. This range surpasses the distance of 2,100 miles between North Korea and the U.S. island territory of Guam

The missile's apparent capability to reach the island territory is especially notable because North Korea threatened in 2017 to attack Guam, which has a population of around 168,00 and is home to a U.S. Air Force base and a naval base.

While this was the first time that North Korea has launched a missile over Japan in five years, the country has repeatedly conducted weapons tests throughout the past two years. Last week, North Korea launched two ballistic missiles toward waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan hours after U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris departed South Korea at the end of her visit to Asia.

Newest North Korea Missile Test
Above, people watch a television screen showing a news broadcast with file footage of a North Korean missile test, at a railway station in Seoul on October 4, 2022. A ballistic missile that North Korea fired over Japan on Tuesday reportedly had the range to reach U.S. territory, underscoring heightened tensions between North Korea and the U.S. over potential nuclear weapons use. Jung Yeon-je/AFP via Getty Images

That test was the third in just one week, with the first taking place before Harris left Washington for her visit and the second while she was in Japan.

At a State Department press briefing on September 29, the day Harris departed South Korea and the two missiles were fired, principal deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said that the U.S. condemned North Korea's missile launches.

"These launches are a clear violation of multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions and demonstrate the threat the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] poses to the region as well as the international community," Patel said.

"We remain deeply committed to a diplomatic approach with the DPRK and call on the DPRK to engage in dialogue. I'll also note that our commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea and Japan—two of our key allies in the region—remains ironclad."

The Republic of Korea (ROK) is the official name for South Korea, while DPRK is North Korea's official name.

While the missile test on Tuesday most directly impacted Japan, where residents reportedly received a warning to take cover, the launch occurred against the backdrop of ramped-up tensions between the U.S. and North Korea.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un accused the U.S. in a July speech of "demonizing" his country and railed against joint naval drills involving the U.S. and South Korea.

"Our armed forces are completely prepared to respond to any crisis, and our country's nuclear war deterrent is also ready to mobilize its absolute power dutifully, exactly and swiftly in accordance with its mission," Kim was quoted as saying.

Following Tuesday's missile test, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM) released a statement saying it was aware of the launch over Japan and was "consulting closely" with Japan, South Korea and other regional partners to "address the threats" posed by North Korea.

"The United States condemns these actions and calls on the DPRK to refrain from further unlawful and destabilizing acts," the statement read. "While we have assessed that this event does not pose a threat to U.S. personnel, or territory, or to our allies, we will continue to monitor the situation. The U.S. commitments to the defense of Japan and the ROK remain ironclad."

In two subsequent statements, USINDOPACOM also announced that U.S. Marine Corps fighters conducted a bilateral exercise with Japan Air Self-Defense Force fighters and that U.S. Indo-Pacific Command and ROK personnel conducted a bilateral exercise over the West Sea in the wake of North Korea's launch.

Update 10/4/22, 12:20 p.m. ET: This story was updated with statements from U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.