North Korea launched an intermediate-range ballistic missile over Japan early Tuesday, prompting the Japanese government to issue an evacuation notice as the missile took flight. Reports stated Japan had suspended its train operations as the coast guard detected the missile around 7:46 a.m. local time and raised warning sirens in northern Japan while urging residents to take shelter. 

According to AP News, the launch is the first since 2017 when North Korea fired a missile that flew over Japanese territory  The ballistic missile is said to have the capability of reaching the U.S. territory of Guam, categorizing it as one of the most provocative demonstrations by the North this year. The test launch is the fifth round of test fires in the past 10 days following the North’s declaration to beef up its nuclear weapons program in a bid to gain more leverage in its diplomatic standstill with the U.S.

The launch was described by Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida while addressing the media on Tuesday condemning the North’s action and calling it a “barbaric act”. Japan’s public media agency NHK said that missile flew about 4,000 km and reached an altitude of 1,000 km. It traversed over Japan in a span of 22 minutes and fell into the Pacific Ocean outside of Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone.  In response to this, the office of the Japanese Prime Minister ordered residents in the northernmost main island of Hokkaido as well as its northeastern prefecture of Aomori to take shelter in buildings in face of the first “J-alert” since 2017 when North Korea test-fired its Hwasong-12 missile twice.

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said the test launch is nothing less than a “threat to the public” and assured that its government will work closely with its international allies to further analyze their response.

Meanwhile, the United States condemned the launch calling it “dangerous and reckless”. At the moment, South Korea and Japan are conducting consultations together with U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan on how they will respond to the provocation. Last month, Pyongyang test-fired four missiles around the same time Vice President Kamala Harris made an official visit to Japan and South Korea coinciding with her attendance at former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s state funeral.

Tv screen displays file footage of North Korean missile launches during a broadcast A defector who was once celebrated by the media as a successful immigration case was found dead in her home in Seoul. Photo by Richard A. Brooks/AFP via Getty Images