File photo of a missile launch carried out by North Korea File photo of a missile launch carried out by North Korea 

North Korea claims missile launches a prelude to nuclear tests

North Korea says the launch of seven missiles in the past few days were drills by its nuclear weapons command, as the country's leaders refuse to engage in dialogue with the West.

By Alastair Wanklyn - Tokyo, Japan

Sirens sounded in towns in northern Japan, as announcements urged people to stay indoors. "A missile from North Korea is approaching," one message said.

The missile passed over Japan on 4 October, flying more than 4,000 km, the North Korean government later said.

It called that launch and six others tests of the nuclear weapons troops that would attack South Korea and other targets in the event of nuclear war.

'Reckless acts'

Japan’s prime minister called the launch “a reckless act.” Fumio Kishida said such actions cannot be tolerated.

A Japanese government spokesman said the missiles “threaten peace and security of the region and the international community.”

The missiles included four fired from trucks and one from the water of a reservoir.

Dialogue declined

North Korea’s state news agency said the leader, Kim Jong Un, feels no need to talk to opponents such as the United States, as Pyongyang accuses Washington of threatening it militarily.

In recent days a US aircraft carrier has engaged with South Korea’s military in drills, including by conducting manoeuvres off the Korean coast.

North Korea suggested one of its missiles may have been a shot across the bows of that warship. It said the rocket passed over its intended target.

Nuclear threats

The timing of North Korea's lashing out took some by surprise. It comes amid globally high tensions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin has talked of using Russia’s nuclear weapons.

Last month, North Korea’s leader Kim set a policy of using nuclear weapons not in reponse to attack but pre-emptively.

There is speculation that North Korea may test-fire a nuclear warhead. It has done six such explosions but has never launched one by rocket.

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10 October 2022, 16:45