Enlarge / Pedestrians walk in front of a huge screen displaying a map of Japan (R) and the Korean Peninsula, in Tokyo on August 29, 2017, following a North Korean missile test that passed over Japan. (credit: AFP via Getty Images)
At 6 am local time on August 29, a ballistic missile was launched from near Pyongyang in North Korea.

Flying 2,700 kilometers (about 1,700 miles), the missile arced over Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido, prompting Japanese officials to issue a civil defense warning to citizens.

Alarm from JP Gov. “A missile was fired from North Korea. Please evacuate to a sturdy building or basement.” #northkorea #Japan pic.twitter.com/38NNCteqY2
— Chiho komoriya (@Chihokomoriya) August 28, 2017

Tuesday’s launch was the latest in a renewed barrage from North Korea, apparently in response to ongoing military exercises and US plans to station an anti-ballistic missile defense system in South Korea. While the missile passed over Japan, it’s not clear that Japan or the US could have done anything to intercept it.

And if they had tried, the attempt may have proven to be an embarrassment—potentially reducing confidence in the ability of the US and its allies to defend against an actual attack.
It is not yet clear whether the missile test was successful other than as a provocation. Reports indicate that the missile broke into three pieces and fell into the ocean 1,180 kilometers (about 730 miles) east of Hokkaido.

As it passed over Japan, the missile reached an altitude of 550 kilometers (340 miles)—about the same altitude reached by another recently-tested, intermediate-range ballistic missile.

That missile—the Pukguksong-2—had a much shorter flight of 500 kilometers (310 miles).

But Tuesday’s flight was much more shallow and shorter than the intercontinental ballistic missile North Korea tested in July.
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