North Korea launches missile

Japanese defense officials say North Korea launched a ballistic missile on Thursday morning.

Japan's government used an emergency alert system to warn residents of Hokkaido about the launch. At 7:55 a.m. sirens began blaring and messages appeared on mobile phones and TVs saying a missile was likely to land on or around Hokkaido and urging people to evacuate immediately.

Twenty minutes later, the government canceled the alert, saying there was no longer a possibility of that happening.

PM: No missiles landed in Japanese territory

Prime Minister Kishida Fumio spoke to reporters shortly after 9 a.m., saying, "We have confirmed that no missiles have fallen in Japanese territory."

Prime Minister Kishida Fumio speaking to reporters on Thursday morning.

Confusion in Hokkaido

The warnings rattled people in Hokkaido, and brought transportation systems to a halt just as many commuters were heading to work.

Sirens blared in several cities.

Hokkaido Railway Company suspended all train lines in the prefecture immediately after the alert was issued.

All expressways in the prefecture were closed shortly after 8 a.m.

Roads and rail routes reopened once the alert was lifted.

People sought safety underground

People in Sapporo taking refuge with safety helmets
People seeking shelter underground.

Commuters headed underground to wait for updates.

One woman said she was about to enter her workplace but was told not to go in. She said she didn't know about the alert and assumed that the area was crowded due to a subway accident.

Underground of Sapporo Station
People in Sapporo Station wait for train operations to resume.

Missile mid- or long-range

A Japanese government official has told NHK that the missile they were tracking disappeared from their radar screens.

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff announced that North Korea had fired a mid-range or longer missile from near Pyongyang, which flew east for roughly 1,000 kilometers.

They did not disclose the missile's altitude, but said it was launched on a lofted trajectory.

Matsuno calls launch outrageous

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno Hirokazu called the launch "outrageous" and said it "escalates provocations against the international community as a whole." Matsuno gave a news conference on Thursday morning and said North Korea's actions, including repeated launches of ballistic missiles, threaten the peace and security of Japan, the region, and the international community, and are unacceptable.

Matsuno Hirokazu
Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno Hirokazu speaks at a news conference on April 13.

He also said it is a violation of UN Security Council resolutions and a serious issue that concerns the safety of the Japanese people.

Matsuno said Japan lodged a strong protest against North Korea via embassies in Beijing.

Use of J-ALERT was "appropriate"

Reporters asked Matsuno whether it was appropriate to use the J-ALERT system to warn people in Hokkaido about the missile. He said the government had limited information at the time and was prioritizing the safety of the public, so he believes the decision was correct.