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Asia

North Korea confirms firing of another missile towards Japan

Leader Kim Jong-Un has claimed the missile test demonstrated North Korea's ability to strike any target in the United States. China condemned the intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test and urged restraint.

Watch video 00:32

North Korea claims successful ICBM launch

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un has announced that Pyongyang's latest test of an intercontinental ballistic missile showed that the US mainland was within striking range. 

"Dear Leader Kim Jong-Un expressed great satisfaction with the perfectly successful test and praised its developers," the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Saturday.

Kim said the test demonstrated North Korea's ability to launch "at any place and time." KCNA reported "the leader said proudly the test also confirmed all the US mainland is within our striking range," adding it was a "stern warning" to the United States. 

China condemned the launch and urged restraint on all sides: "China opposes North Korea's violations of UN Security Council resolutions ... At the same time, (China) hopes that all parties concerned will exercise caution and avoid intensifying tensions" on the Korean peninsula, a foreign ministry spokesman said in a statement.

Read more - North Korea's war of words with the world

US President Donald Trump condemned the launch as reckless, saying that "by threatening the world, these weapons and tests further isolate North Korea, weaken its economy, and deprive its people."

"The United States will take all necessary steps to ensure the security of the American homeland and protect our allies in the region."

US and South Korean troops conducted joint military training exercises as part of efforts to counter North Korea's missile launches. The exercise involved the firing of rapidly deployable missile systems into the territorial waters off South Korea's east coast.

Japan on high alert

Japan's NHK news agency was the first to report that North Korea had launched a projectile, shortly before midnight local time (1500 UTC). The missile likely landed in the exclusive economic zone of Japanese waters.

Read more - What is an intercontinental ballistic missile?

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters, "I have received information that North Korea once again conducted a missile firing. There is a possibility that it landed within our EEZ (exclusive economic zone). We will be analyzing [the launch] immediately and will do our best for the safety of our people." Abe was set to convene an emergency meeting of government officials later on Saturday in response to the launch. 

South Korea convened a meeting of its own national security council. South Korea's joint chiefs of staff said that the missile had been launched from North Korea's northern Jagang province and confirmed that it had landed in the East Sea (Sea of Japan). 

North Korea's missile tests

North Korea's previous rocket tests

On the defensive

In May of this year Japan, which has sought a more active role for its military under Prime Minister Abe, took part in military operations with the US, dispatching a destroyer to waters off the coast of Tokyo. It was the first such operation conducted by the Japanese since it passed controversial legislation allowing its military to expand its role abroad. 

Watch video 01:20

Sabers rattle on Korean Peninsula

The United States is also preparing to conduct a further test of its Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System (THAAD), a missile-intercept system, in Alaska, possibly on Saturday. The test was already scheduled before news of Friday's North Korean missile launch broke. The system, which the US says will enhance its defense capabilities against developing missile threats in North Korea and other countries, has already been succesfully tested this month.

Deployment of the THAAD system has been greeted with opposition on several fronts. South Koreans living near one of the system's radar stations fear it will make them a target for what North Korea announced would be a "physical response."

Read more - US to ban Americans from visiting North Korea

Growing frequency of missile tests

North Korea has conducted a series of similar missile tests in recent months, the latest of which was a missile capable of reaching Alaska.

Conducted on America's July 4 holiday, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un said it was a gift to the "American b******s." North Korea has been repeatedly punished with sanctions for its violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions banning it from conducting nuclear and missile testing.  

North Korea Hwasong-14 rocket missile test

An undated photo of the launch of a Hwasong-14 rocket was released by North Korea's state news agency in July

North Korea's latest launch again added to the building animosity in the region which pits the United States, Japan and South Korea against North Korea and its single ally, China.

The stand-off was exacerbated asPyongyang was hit with further US sanctions earlier in the week. Japan also issued indirect sanctions on Friday morning ahead of the missile test. Japan's Nikkei newspaper reported that five entities and nine individuals had been blacklisted by the Japanese government in connection with North Korea. Among the entities were two Chinese firms, the Bank of Dandong and a shipping company, as well as a North Korean trading house.

jm/bk (AP, Reuters)

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