North Korea has fired its highest-ever intercontinental ballistic missile and poses a worldwide threat, US Secretary of Defence James Mattis has said.
Earlier the Pentagon said the missile had flown for about 1,000km (620 miles) before falling into the Sea of Japan.
The launch, early on Wednesday, is the latest in a series that have raised international tensions.
North Korea’s last ballistic missile launch was in September and came days after its sixth nuclear test.
Mr Mattis was speaking at the White House as he briefed President Donald Trump and senior officials on the missile launch.“It went higher, frankly, than any previous shots they have taken,” he said, adding that the North was building “ballistic missiles that threaten everywhere in the world”.
South Korean news agency Yonhap said that the missile was launched from Pyongsong, in South Pyongan province.Japanese government officials said the missile travelled for about 50 minutes but did not fly over Japan, as some have done in the past.
President Trump was briefed while the missile was still in the air, the White House said. Afterwards he said: “We will take care of it.”
South Korea’s military said it had responded with a missile exercise of its own.Condemnation of the launch was swift:
- The Japanese government said they would “never accept North Korea’s continuous provocative behaviour” and PM Shinzo Abe called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council
- The EU called the launch a “further unacceptable violation” of North Korea’s international obligations
- Britain’s ambassador to the UN called it “a reckless act”
The North is thought to be focusing efforts on building long-range missiles with the potential of reaching the mainland continental US.
Officials in Pyongyang said the first of the longer-range missiles it tested in July could hit “any part of the world”, but the US military called it an intermediate-range missile instead.
Its last nuclear test reportedly involved a miniaturised hydrogen bomb that could be loaded onto a long-range missile, raising tensions with the US even further.