A North Korean missile passed over Japan early on Tuesday morning, local time. It broke into three pieces and fell into the waters 1,180 kilometres east (about 730 miles) of Japan's northern Hokkaido Island, according to public broadcaster NHK.
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said North Korea's "outrageous act of firing a missile over our country is an unprecedented, serious and grave threat and greatly damages the regional peace and security," while Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga called the firing of the missile a clear violation of United Nations resolutions. Abe said Japan was seeking an urgent meeting at the UN to strengthen measures against Pyongyang.
South Korea's military said the projectile was fired from the Sunan region near the North Korean capital of Pyongyang just before 6 a.m. (2100 UTC Monday). It did not try to shoot the missile down. The Foreign Ministry in Seoul condemned the launch: "We will respond strongly based on our steadfast alliance with the United States if North Korea continues nuclear and missile provocations.”
Japan's government had warned people in the north of the country via the J-Alert system, interrupting radio and TV programs to advise that they take precautions. The island nation's military is currently practicing deploying anti-missile batteries at three US bases in Japan.
Earlier Monday, South Korean officials had warned of signs that Pyongyang was preparing for another weapons test.
On Saturday, North Korea test-fired three short-range ballistic missiles from Kittaeryong on North Korea's east coast. Two missiles flew about 155 miles (250 kilometers) in a northeastern direction and a third blew up almost immediately.
The Pentagon said the weekend launches did not threaten US territory - either the mainland or the US island territory of Guam - but Pentagon spokesman Colonel Robert Manning said, "You're still firing missiles, so that's a threat."
"We have to make the assumption that they continue to learn throughout each one of these missile launches," Manning said.
North Korea previously fired two intercontinental ballistic missiles in July. In early August, Pyongyang announced it was considering firing four intermediate-range missiles over Japan to land just kilometres from Guam. At the time it derided US President Donald Trump's threat of "fire and fury" as a "load of nonsense."
"The Hwasong-12 rockets to be launched by the Korean People’s Army will cross the sky above Shimane, Hiroshima and Koichi prefectures of Japan," a statement from North Korea said. "They will fly for 3,356.7 km for 1,065 seconds and hit the waters 30 to 40 kilometres away from Guam."
But days later, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said he would "watch a little more"and decided to order his army to stand down on the strike.
South Korea and the US are holding annual defensive drills, which North Korea routinely describes as preparation for invasion.