North Korea missile test is huge step forward

People watch a South Korean TV news broacast showing file footage of a North Korean missile launch at a railway station in Seoul

In a unanimous statement backed by China, the council vowed strong measures in response to Pyongyang's "highly destabilizing behavior" and demanded a halt to "further nuclear and ballistic missiles tests".

While it's hard to verify the North Koreans' numbers, the first test of the Hwasong-12 missile, a "newly-developed ballistic rocket capable of carrying a large-size heavy nuclear warhead", appears to be an "unqualified" success that experts say could put the country on track to developing a functional Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, or ICBM.

The missile flew 787 kilometres on a trajectory reaching an altitude of 2,111.5 kilometres, the North's KCNA news agency said.

North Korea said that a "large-size heavy nuclear warhead" can fit on its new ground-to-ground missile in its threat to launch a nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of hitting the United States.

South Korea's Defense Ministry said more analysis was needed to verify the North's claim on the rocket's technological features.

This image made from video of an undated still image broadcast in a news bulletin by North Korea's KRT on Monday, May 15, 2017, shows leader Kim Jong Un at what was said to be a missile test site at an undisclosed location in North Korea.

"The launch of such ballistic missiles is a serious threat to our country", Abe said, considering the action a grave threat to the region and a violation of United Nations resolutions on North Korea's arms programs.

Decades of talks have so far failed to stem the growth of North Korea's nuclear program. The council said that launches by North Korea reveal development in nuclear weapons delivery systems, which were increasing tensions around the world. Over the weekend, North Korea carried out yet another missile test.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin condemned the missile launch, telling reporters during a visit to China that "there's nothing good about" it.

Trump also has flexed US military muscle, although with little apparent effect in deterring North Korean leader Kim Jong Un from his rapid tempo of weapons tests. Pyongyang has stepped up its missile tests over the past year.

The United States called the missile launch a message to South Korea, days after Moon took office pledging to engage Pyongyang in dialogue and keep up worldwide pressure to impede the North's arms pursuit. The missile firing took place Sunday, North Korea time, with the projectile landing in the sea between North Korea and Japan.

North Korea's leader said in his New Year's message that the country has entered the final stage of preparing to launch an ICBM.

But he added: "We must stop intimidating North Korea and find a peaceful solution to this problem".

On Monday morning, North Korea officially confirmed that it had conducted the launch of a medium-range ballistic missile a day before. "North Korea should not make an inaccurate judgment because of a changed [political] environment" in the South.

The AP also reports that, according to state media, Kim warned, "the US should not ... disregard or misjudge the reality that its mainland and Pacific operation region are in (North Korea's) sighting range for strike".

The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system (THAAD), which became operational earlier this month in South Korea, aims to destroy short- and medium-range ballistic missiles amid growing nuclear and missile threats from North Korea.

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