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North Korean missile flew over Japan before falling into the sea

  • Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said North Korea fired a ballistic missile that passed over the Tohoku region at the northern end of Japan.
  • U.S. stock index futures pointed to a lower open on Tuesday following the news.
  • Local government urged people living in the area to take refuge in solid buildings or underground shelters, NHK reported.

[Update: Global stock markets reacted to North Korea's overture.]

North Korea has fired a ballistic missile that passed over Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters early Tuesday.

A South Korean military official told NBC News that the missile was fired around 5:57 a.m. local time on Tuesday. The official said that the missile flew for about 2,700 kilometers (1,678 miles), reaching a maximum altitude of 550 kilometers (342 miles). U.S. Pacific Command projected that the missile splashed down at 6:29 a.m. local time.

Later Tuesday, Abe said the missile was an unprecedented, serious and grave threat to Japan. The Japanese prime minister said he would ask the United Nations to up the pressure on Pyongyang.

Japanese broadcaster NHK reported that the Japanese government warned that a North Korean missile was headed toward the Tohoku region at the northern end of the country. NHK also reported that Japan took no action to shoot down the missile.

The Japanese broadcaster reported that the North Korean missile broke into three pieces and fell into the sea.

Dow Jones industrial average futures opened more than 100 points lower following the news, and was down more than 100 points in premarket trading Tuesday morning. The dollar fell against the Japanese yen. The dollar was 0.8 percent lower at 108.42 yen early Tuesday, while the euro rose against the dollar to 1.2060.

Asian shares fell on Tuesday as investors turned to safe-haven assets and U.S. futures traded lower after a North Korean missile launch, although major indexes were off session lows by the end of the day.

Japan's Nikkei 225 retraced some of its initial losses to close down 0.45 percent, or 87.35 points, at 19,362.55 after a North Korean missile flew over the country early on Tuesday. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in a statement that the launch was reckless and unprecedented.

While the U.S. Department of Defense said it is still assessing the missile launch, the North American Aerospace Defense Command determined that it did not pose a threat to North America.

Reuters reported that Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the missile test was a threat that Tokyo would respond to firmly.

"This ballistic missile launch appeared to fly over our territory. It is an unprecedented, serious and grave threat to our nation," the top government spokesman told reporters.

Suga called the test a clear violation of United Nations resolutions. He also said that Japan will work closely with the U.S., South Korea, and other concerned nations to find a timely and appropriate response.

The South Korean government has called for a national security council meeting at 7 a.m. local time, according to a presidential spokesperson. South Korean authorities have not issued an evacuation order.

The Japanese government has urged people in Tohoku to take refuge in solid buildings or underground shelters, according to NHK.

On Monday, U.S. and Japanese servicemen concluded joint exercises in Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost major island. Currently, South Korean and U.S. forces are in the middle of their annual joint exercises.

A senior U.S. intelligence official told NBC that this would be the first missile test to pass over Japan on a high altitude trajectory. In 1998, North Korea fired a missile through Japanese airspace.

Tensions surrounding North Korea's missile tests have ratcheted up throughout the summer as Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump engaged in a war of words.

Trump previously warned Pyongyang that threats against the U.S. would be met with "fire and fury." North Korean state media subsequently responded by saying that it was considering striking the U.S. territory of Guam.

A missile would need 3,500 kilometers (2,175 miles) of range to hit Guam.

— CNBC's Patti Domm, NBC News and Reuters contributed reporting.