The United States, Japan and South Korea have asked for an urgent meeting of the United Nations Security Council on North Korea’s ballistic missile launch.
The UN Mission for Ukraine, which holds the rotating security council presidency, said closed consultations would take place this afternoon.
North Korea launched the missile early on Sunday, marking its first such test of the year – and an implicit challenge to US president Donald Trump.
State media said leader Kim Jong Un was at the site to observe the launch and expressed pleasure at the North’s expansion of its strategic strike capabilities.
A report on the launch carried early today by the North’s Korean Central News Agency said Kim watched from an observation post and gave the order to fire the “Pukguksong-2”, which it said was a “Korean-style new type strategic weapon system”.
It is believed to have flown about 310 miles before splashing down into the ocean in international waters.
The report said the test proved “the reliability and security” of a new mobile launching system, the solid fuel that was used and the guidance and control features of the ballistic missile.
Solid fuel can give missiles longer range and make detecting them before launch more difficult because they can be readied faster than liquid fuel missiles.
The report also said the test verified control and guidance capabilities and said the missile can be “tipped with a nuclear warhead”.
It suggested the launch was conducted in a “lofted” style, which puts the missile into a high trajectory rather than a lower one that gives it more range, in order take “the security of the neighbouring countries into consideration”.
It added Kim “expressed great satisfaction over the possession of another powerful nuclear attack means”.
“Now our rocket industry has radically turned into high thrust solid fuel-powered engine from liquid fuel rocket engine and rapidly developed into a development- and creation-oriented industry, not just copying samples,” he said.
“Thanks to the development of the new strategic weapon system, our People’s Army is capable of performing its strategic duties most accurately and rapidly in any space: under waters or on the land.”
North Korea had warned it was ready to test its first intercontinental ballistic missile, but the US Strategic Command said it detected and tracked what it assessed to be a medium- or intermediate-range missile.
Reports of the launch came as Mr Trump was hosting a visit by Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe and just days before the North is to mark the birthday of leader Kim Jong Un’s late father, Kim Jong Il.
After receiving word of the launch, Mr Trump stood at his south Florida estate with Mr Abe, who called the move “absolutely intolerable”.
Mr Trump said: “I just want everybody to understand and fully know that the United States of America stands behind Japan, its great ally, 100%.”
Stephen Miller, Mr Trump’s chief policy adviser, said the two leaders had displayed “an important show of solidarity” between their nations.
“The message we’re sending to the world right now is a message of strength and solidarity; we stand with Japan and we stand with our allies in the region to address the North Korean menace,” Mr Miller said on ABC’s This Week.
The firing of the missile is a major challenge for the Trump administration, said George Lopez, an expert in economic sanctions and nuclear disarmament and a professor emeritus of peace studies at the University of Notre Dame.
“The Sunday test of an intermediate-range ballistic missile by the North Korean regime is in clear violation of past United Nations Security Council resolutions and recent warning from the US,” he said.
“As such, it is a significant challenge to the Trump administration because it has yet to develop its policies toward the region, toward North Korea, or its role in the UN and its use of economic sanctions.
“So we may learn a lot about Mr. Trump’s crisis diplomacy in the coming days.”
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the missile was fired from around Banghyon, in North Pyongan province, which is where South Korean officials have said the North test-launched its powerful mid-range Musudan missile on October 15 and 20.
The missile splashed down into the sea between the Korean Peninsula and Japan, according to the US Strategic Command.
Japan’s chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga said it did not hit Japanese territorial seas.
The North conducted two nuclear tests and a slew of rocket launches last year in continued efforts to expand its nuclear weapons and missile programmes.
Kim Jong Un said in his New Year’s address that the country had reached the final stages of readiness to test an ICBM, which would be a major step forward in its efforts to build a credible nuclear threat to the United States.
Though Pyongyang has been relatively quiet about the transfer of power to the Trump administration, its state media has repeatedly called for Washington to abandon its “hostile policy” and vowed to continue its nuclear and missile development programmes until the US changes its diplomatic approach.
Just days ago, it also reaffirmed its plan to conduct more space launches, which it staunchly defends, but which have been criticised because they involve dual-use technology that can be transferred to improve missiles.
South Korean prime minister and acting president Hwang Kyo-ahn said his country would punish North Korea for the missile launch.
Meanwhile a Chinese Communist Party newspaper has said it is futile for Washington to continue cracking down on North Korea’s nuclear development while ignoring its concerns.
The Global Times said in an editorial that Pyongyang was upset and angry because “the military threat it faces looks very real” and it was enduring harsh sanctions.
It said Washington and others were not addressing “the root cause” by asking Beijing to pressure Pyongyang.
The paper says the timing of Sunday’s missile launch, a day after the end of China’s 15-day Lunar New Year period, suggests Beijing’s participation in UN sanctions is having a “positive effect”.
Last year, North Korea launched a long-range rocket on the eve of China’s most important holiday.