Today's D Brief: N. Korean missile flies over Japan; Ukraine’s counteroffensive plods on; More HIMARS to Kyiv; The Ayatollah lashes out; And a bit more.

North Korea appears to have launched an intermediate range ballistic missile over the island of Japan on Tuesday morning local time, triggering panic on the streets as citizens ran for shelter and train service was suspended in the northern part of the country. According to South Korea’s military, “the missile flew some 4,500 kilometers at an apogee of around 970 km at a top speed of Mach 17,” Seoul’s Yonhap news agency reports. 

Japanese officials said the missile was airborne for about 22 minutes, and its travel distance seems to put this launch farther than North Korea’s other IRBM launches—including one this past August, and others back in September 2017, according to Ankit Panda of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. 

  • A note for those down below: “During the phase of the flight above Japan the missile [was] up in space flying higher than the International Space Station,” astronomer Jonathan McDowell emphasized. 

To be clear, “This is the longest demonstrated range by any North Korean missile test ever,” Panda stresses, and added that this was Pyongyang’s 37th ballistic missile test of the year. It was also North Korea’s “eighth test of the Hwasong-12 [IRBM] and the third time it has overflown Japan,” nuclear scholar Jeffrey Lewis tweeted Monday evening from California. 

“It definitely reaches Guam,” Lewis said, and added, “The [IRBM] Hwasong-12 is the missile Kim threatened to use to bracket the island” back in 2017.

The missile’s path, visualized: Compare Tuesday’s launch with two other similar ones from 2017 in a diagram drawn up by Dutch researcher Marko Langbroek, here. Lewis’s team of researchers also produced a short video illustrating the course of this most recent IRBM launch.

South Korea’s military responded by firing two precision-guided bombs at a test range on an uninhabited island known as Jukdo, Yonhap reported separately on Tuesday. 

Involved: Four South Korean F-15Ks and four U.S. F-16 fighters, as part of a “strike package” that dropped two Joint Direct Attack Munition bombs. See video of the JDAMs via NKNews, here

Official U.S. reax: The White House’s National Security Council condemned the launch in a statement Monday evening, calling it a “dangerous and reckless decision to launch a long-range ballistic missile over Japan.” And in response, “The United States will continue its efforts to limit the DPRK’s ability to advance its prohibited ballistic missile and weapons of mass destruction programs, including with allies and UN partners.”

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Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Jennifer Hlad and Caitlin Kenney. If you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. And check out other Defense One newsletters here. On this day in 1993, the U.S. military lost 18 special operations soldiers during a particularly bloody engagement in the wider Somali civil war known as the Battle of Mogadishu.

Ukraine says it has liberated “more than 450 settlements in the Kharkiv region alone” during its ongoing counteroffensive in the eastern part of the country, which has been occupied by invading Russian forces since March.
“The occupiers left many mined areas, many tripwires, [and] almost all infrastructure was destroyed,” Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelenskyy said in his Monday evening address. “The damage is colossal,” he said, but added, “There are new liberated settlements in several regions.”
The latest: Kyiv’s forces have made “substantial gains around Lyman and in Kherson Oblast in the last 48 hours,” according to the Institute for the Study of War. That includes new advances “through the Luhansk Oblast border in the direction of Kreminna.” According to NPR, Russia now lacks complete control over each of the four regions Vladimir Putin claimed to annex this past Friday before a rapturous audience at the Kremlin.
Developing: The U.S. is sending Ukraine four more HIMARS artillery systems, and an estimated 200 MRAP armored off-road vehicles, Reuters reported Monday afternoon. It’s worth noting that these four HIMARS are different from the 18 promised in an announcement last week; and that’s because “the [U.S.] government has to procure [those 18] weapons from industry, rather than pulling them from existing U.S. weapons stocks,” as it will do for these four, according to Mike Stone of Reuters, who cautioned that “the weapons package can change in value and content” until it’s formally announced, presumably sometime later Tuesday.
According to the Pentagon, “Down in that Kherson region where Ukraine is conducting their counter offensive… the Russians essentially are in a defensive crouch,” a senior military official told reporters Monday. “They are fighting, obviously, but they’re in a defensive crouch, as opposed to further north up near Bakhmut, where it’s more offensive in nature.”
On the eventual appearance of Putin’s troop mobilization: “We have not seen a large-scale reinforcement of forces at this stage,” the official said. “In other words, we’re not talking about brigade-size forces coming into Ukraine; we’re seeing, you know, some replacement forces coming in to assist as they are attrited and as they have fallen back to try to shore up some of the defensive lines. But nothing large scale at this stage of the game.”
“If you look into the future, clearly there’s a reason [Putin is] mobilizing 300,000 troops, with the intent of employing those forces at some point in time,” the defense official said, but didn’t elaborate a great deal. “We could expect to see them move, but we have not seen that in the large scale at this stage,” they added. 
Update: Some Russians are fleeing mobilization to reunite with family in Mongolia, where those same family members fled from Russia way back in the 1920s. Polina Evanova of the Financial Times has that remarkable story, here.
Related reading:

Meanwhile in Somalia: The U.S. military Monday claimed it killed “an al-Shabaab leader” in an airstrike about 230 miles southwest of Mogadishu on Saturday. No names were given, and the usual caveats apply—that allegedly “no civilians were injured or killed” in the U.S. strike. See U.S. Africa Command’s press release about the strike, here

Iran’s leader is accusing the U.S. and Israel of orchestrating the widespread anti-government protests that started after the death of Mahsa Amini. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the death of the young woman—who was arrested by “morality police” for improper wear of a hijab and later died in custody—“deeply broke [his] heart.” However, he said, “those who ignited unrest to sabotage the Islamic Republic deserve harsh prosecution and punishment,” Reuters reported Monday.
White House reax: President Biden said Monday he is “gravely concerned about reports of the intensifying violent crackdown on peaceful protesters in Iran, including students and women, who are demanding their equal rights and basic human dignity.” The U.S. will impose “further costs” on those responsible for violence against protestors, Biden promised. “We will continue holding Iranian officials accountable and supporting the rights of Iranians to protest freely.”

And lastly: The U.S. Navy’s newest carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford, is finally expected to get underway this afternoon. Poor weather Monday delayed its already-several-years-late maiden deployment, Defense One’s Caitlin Kenney reports.
The Ford is America’s most expensive aircraft carrier. And its crew plans to exercise with several allied nations in the Atlantic—including Canada, France, and Germany—during a test-run ahead of a longer deployment next year. This first trip will also include a foreign port call, said Capt. Paul Lanzilotta, the carrier’s commander, though he declined to say where that might be.