North Korea has fired a missile that passed over northern Japan today.
The government’s J-Alert warning system advised people in the area to take precautions, but public broadcaster NHK said there was no sign of damage.
The Japanese military did not attempt to shoot down the missile, which passed over Japanese territory around 6.06am local time.
It missile launch comes after, Seoul’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) told South Korean lawmakers at a closed door parliamentary session that it has detected signs of the secretive state preparing for another nuclear test at its Punggye-ri underground test site.
Kim Byung-kee, a lawmaker of South Korea’s ruling Democratic Party (DP) said the NIS reported North Korea ‘has completed its preparation to carry out a nuclear test at Tunnel 2 and Tunnel 3 of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site.’
He added the NIS had evidence to suggest Tunnel 4 was being readied for more construction work.
North Korea may be preparing for its sixth nuclear weapon test, South Korean officials have warned
Meanwhile the despotic state has continued to test a variety of missiles, the US military has said.
It fired three short range ballistic missiles which revived tensions with Washington after President Donald Trump had said Pyongyang was starting to show some ‘respect’.
The launches come as tens of thousands of South Korean and US troops take part in joint military drills in the south of the peninsula, which the North views as highly provocative.
Following an initial US assessment saying that two of the missiles had ‘failed in flight’, a spokesman for the US Pacific Command later said the two weapons had not failed but ‘flew approximately 250 kilometres (155 miles) in a northeastern direction’.
One of the three missiles blew up ‘almost immediately’, with none of the weapons posing a threat to either North America or the US territory of Guam, the spokesman said.
North Korea has previously conducted dozens of missile test. Pictured: The launch of a surface-to-surface medium long-range ballistic missile Pukguksong-2 at an undisclosed location
Lee Il-Woo, an analyst at Korea Defence Network, said the launches represented a ‘low-level provocative act’ carried out in response to the US-South Korea exercises, which are seen by Pyongyang as a rehearsal for an invasion of its own territory.
The joint exercises started on Monday at a time of heightened tensions between Pyongyang and Washington, after two successful intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launches carried out by North Korea last month apparently brought most of the United States into range for the first time.
Analyst Yang Uk at the Korea Defence and Security Forum told AFP the latest launches by Pyongyang were ‘carefully calibrated… to avoid revving up tensions too high beyond its control’.
The launches, which took place over a span of 30 minutes, came as North Korean state media reported that leader Kim Jong-Un oversaw a military exercise simulating a special forces assault on South Korean border islands involving aircraft, ‘multiple-missile launchers’ and howitzers.
A North Korea Scud-B missile (C) is displayed at the Korea War Memorial Museum on Saturday in South Korea
A North Korea Scud-B missile (C) is displayed at the Korea War Memorial Museum in Seoul, South Korea, after ballistic missiles were launched into the East Sea
Neither Japan nor South Korea confirmed the US military’s description of the weapons fired by North Korea as ‘ballistic missiles’.
South Korea’s defence ministry said ‘unidentified projectiles’, fired at 6:49 am (2149 GMT Friday), flew some 250 kilometres towards the Sea of Japan.
‘They could be ballistic missiles but they could be rockets. We are now analysing,’ said Japan’s Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera, adding that they did not fly on a ‘lofted’ trajectory.
Under Kim Jong-un, Pyongyang has made rapid strides in its ballistic missile technology in violation of UN resolutions, and it has been penalised by seven sets of sanctions.
Trump has called on China to play a more active role to rein in its neighbour, which relies heavily on the Asian giant for its economic survival.
Under Kim Jong-un, Pyongyang has made rapid strides in its ballistic missile technology in violation of UN resolutions
Kim Jong-un’s 70-year-old air fleet
North Korean despot Kim Jong-un is preparing his special forces for suicide parachute missions across the border on 70-year-old Stalin era biplanes.
The dictator has a fleet of 300 Antonov An-2 transport aircraft which are capable of flying as slow as 30 miles-per-hour and can even go backwards into a heavy headwind.
Footage has emerged of North Korean paratroops jumping from the aged aircraft from very low levels in a show of force.
Kim Jong-un has around 300 Antonov An-2 aircraft which were designed in 1947
Kim Jong-un, pictured at the controls of one of the ancient aircraft was observing drills involving his elite paratroops who jumped out of the aircraft during a training mission
The Antonov has an incredibly low stalling speed and a very low radar profile meaning it is difficult to spot at night when flown at low level
The aircraft, which were designed in 1947, have an incredibly low radar profile – meaning they are difficult to track using conventional radar. They also fly at such a slow speed that modern anti-aircraft systems are programmed to ignore their limited returns.
Also, the aircraft can hug the earth meaning ground-based missile systems will not pick them up and supersonic attack jets will find difficulty in detecting them from above.
The bottom of the wings and the fuselage of Kim’s fleet of aircraft have been painted blue with the top of the wings is green as a form of camouflage to prevent both ground troops and aircraft spotting them.
The images released by North Korean media show the paratroops bailing out of the aircraft at incredibly low levels.
If they attempted their mission at night it could be difficult for defending missile units and air-to-air fighters to successfully intercept the old-fashioned machines.
North Korean paratroops performed for the cameras in a show of force, pictured
According to The Drive, the aircraft could even land on short sections of road, allowing their troops to disembark and begin a sneak attack.
It is feared the old aircraft could even deliver a nuclear bomb – possibly in a suicide attack into a strategically vital location.
It is believed North Korea has at least 1,000 artillery pieces within striking range of Seoul, the South Korean capital, which is home to 25 million people.
Kim has claimed North Korea now has technology to miniaturise its nuclear weapons to fit onto an ballistic missile.
North Korea could potentially load a bomb onto the back of an An-2 – with its one-tonne cargo capacity – and detonate it over the south.