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Japan warned people to 'seek shelter immediately' after North Korea fired a missile toward the east

( Yahoo )

The Japanese government sparked panic on Tuesday morning after telling citizens to seek immediate shelter from a missile fired from North Korea that appears to have ultimately flown over Japan before falling into the Pacific Ocean.

The Prime Minister's official residence tweeted at 7:27 a.m. local time that a missile was believed to have been launched from North Korea toward the east. Officials warned residents in Hokkaido and Aomori prefectures to seek safety inside a building.

Several additional government entities confirmed the threat: South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Japanese coast guard told Reuters that North Korea fire a ballistic missile off its east coast. A message on Japanese TV reiterated the warning, and the US Embassy in Tokyo relayed the alert.

Approximately 15 minutes after the initial warning, The Prime Minister's official residence said the missile had passed in a follow-up tweet. Officials said the missile is believed to have passed through the Pacific Ocean around 7:29 am local time.

The government urged people not to approach or touch any remnants and to contact the police or fire department if they stumble upon anything suspicious.

The launch — presumably a test — was North Korea's fifth fire in the last 10 days. The country has launched 23 ballistic and other missiles since the year began, but Tuesday's warnings were the first of its kind in five years.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno offered more information at a press conference, saying the North Korean ballistic flew over the Tohoku area in Japan and fell outside of the country, according to Washington Post reporter Michelle Ye Hee Lee.

Matsuno said the missile could have a "grave impact" on the lives and livelihood of Japan's people. The government is currently assesing whether there is any falling debris from the missile.

North Korea's ongoing launches pose a grave challenge to not only the safety of Japan, but the entire international community, Matsuno added.

The South Korean military later released statistics on the missile saying it flew some 4,500 kilometers at its climax and hit 970 kilometers at its top speed, according to the South Korean news agency Yonhap.

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