On Tuesday, October 1st, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), better known in the west as North Korea, launched what was believed to be a ballistic missile over its regional neighbor, Japan. This is the first time such a provocation has occurred in five years, and it prompted government leaders in some regions of that island nation to request members of the public to seek shelter. The launch immediately drew condemnation from the international community.

According to The Washington Post, in short order, President Biden was on the phone with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, reiterating our ongoing obligation to protect them as well as South Korea. US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was busy on the phones that day as well, speaking to counterparts in South Korea and Japan. He noted that the missile launches were “a clear violation” of UN Security Council resolutions.

North Korean missile launch. Screenshot from Reuters video

The multiple launches over the past couple of days were answered by the US flying F-35s over the Sea of Japan and sorties over the West Sea with Korean F-15 fighter jets. The actions of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un come as no surprise to Washington as the US and South Korean armed forces had been conducting their largest joint field exercises in five years recently. That’s bound to annoy Pyongyang. The exercises, cumulatively known as Ulchi Freedom Shield, involved tens of thousands of troops from both nations, along with numerous warplanes, warships, and tanks. The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan took part as well.

The North Koreans view the training exercises as hostile and use them as an excuse to bolster their ongoing heavy weapons and nuclear programs. The launch on Tuesday was the seventh time since 1998 that North Korea has launched a missile over Japan. Back in March of this year, Pyongyang test-fired an enormous Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) believed to be able to hit multiple cities on the East Coast of the United States. The DPRK’s new Hwasong-17 has the longest range of any ICBM the North Koreans have launched so far. It is also thought to be the world’s largest mobile ICBM carrier that is capable of carrying multiple nuclear warheads.