North Korea fires missile towards Japan in 'unprecedented grave threat' as tension in region continues to intensify

North Korea has treatened to strike a US territory and has twice tested ballistic missiles (Image: Reuters)
  • The missile passed over northern Japan early on Tuesday and fell into the waters off Hokkaido after splitting into three parts
  • It is the first time North Korea has sent a missile over Japanese territory in almost 20 years.

North Korea sparked fresh fears of military conflict after firing a ballistic missile which flew over Japanese territory before landing in the sea.

Japan said the missile was "an unprecedented, grave threat" to the nation and called for a meeting of the UN Security Council in response.

The missile passed over northern Japan early on Tuesday and broke into three pieces before crashing off the east of Cape Ermino on Hokkaido, the government said.

The projectile was fired from an airport in the North Korean capital Pyongyang.

Japan's J-Alert warning system was activated, sending a text message alert advising people in the area to take precautions.

A video posted online by a PhD student called Joe revealed a message was also broadcast on a loudspeaker in the city of Hokkaido.

He tweeted eerie footage of the announcement, adding: “I woke up with a Siren and an announcement that North Korea launched a missile that would possibly hit cities within Hokkaido.”

Public broadcaster NHK said there was no sign of the missile having caused any damage.

The Japanese military did not attempt to shoot down the missile, which passed over Japanese territory around 6.06 am local time.

But aircraft began scouring the area for debris after the missile broke into pieces in the Pacific Ocean.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he would do all in his power to protect the Japanese public.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (Image: AFP)

"We will make utmost efforts to firmly protect the lives of the people," Abe told reporters in brief remarks as he entered his office for emergency meetings on the missile firing.

Japanese broadcaster TBS warned people to take cover underground.

They said on Twitter: "Missile launch. Missile launch. It seems that a missile has been fired from North Korea.

"Please evacuate to a rugged building or underground. Target area Hokkaido Aomori Iwate Miyagi Akita Yamagata Fukushima Ibaraki Tochigi Gunma Niigata Nagano."

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that he has spoken with U.S. President Donald Trump and they agreed to increase pressure on North Korea after the latest missile launch.

Trump also said that the United States was “100 percent with Japan” and he showed a strong commitment to Tokyo’s defence, Abe told reporters.

A statement has also been issued by America but President Donald Trump has yet to respond directly himself.

"We can confirm that the missile launched by North Korea flew over Japan," Pentagon spokesman Colonel Robert Manning told reporters about tonights incident.

He said that the US military was gathering further information.

"North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) determined the missile launch from North Korea did not pose a threat to North America," Manning said.

The missile is believed to have been a Hwasong-12, an intermediate ballistic missile capable of travelling around 6,000km.

The path of the missile, which fell into the sea (Image: Google)

It is the first time North Korea has sent a missile over Japanese territory in almost 20 years.

The last time was in 1998, when North Korea tested a long-range Taepodong-1 missile sparking international outcry.

There was some dispute about a missile launch in 2009, but Pyongyang claimed this was a satellite.