North Korea just conducted one of its most provocative missile tests yet, according to media reports.
The country sent a missile into space that flew over Japan Tuesday (Oct. 4), prompting South Korea and the United States to send fighter jets aloft in an exercise off the Korean coast, according to the The Washington Post.
Unnamed experts quoted by the Post said the missile test, which used a vehicle capable of hosting nuclear weapons, is pushing North Korea closer to threatening the U.S. mainland. The Tuesday test is part of a larger volley of demonstrations by North Korea, which has launched roughly 40 missiles across 20 or so efforts in 2022.
"The United States will continue its efforts to limit [North Korea's] ability to advance its prohibited ballistic missile and weapons of mass destruction programs, including with allies and U.N. partners," U.S. National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a statement, as quoted by the Post.
South Korean and Japanese estimates cited in the news report say the missile left a northern province of North Korea, near the border with China, and reached a maximum altitude of roughly 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) — more than double the altitude of the International Space Station.
The missile used in Tuesday's test apparently had a range of about 2,860 miles (4,500 km), putting within striking distance Guam, a U.S. island territory in Micronesia, in the Pacific Ocean.
The last time North Korea fired a ballistic missile over Japan was in 2017, according to CNN. The missile launched on Tuesday was likely a Hwasong-12, the CNN report added, which is an intermediate-range ballistic missile that North Korea last tested in January of this year.
While this missile landed harmlessly in the Pacific Ocean, CNN added, a malfunction could have put highly populated areas in danger, as the rocket flew over Japan's Tohoku region, which hosts more than eight million people.