US President Barack Obama has accused North Korea of "provocation" following reports of a new missile test by the communist country. The US leader urged China to put more pressure on North Korea to halt tests.
Obama said while there was not much information available on North Korea's latest test, his administration was taking it "very seriously."
Several reports have claimed that the communist nation launched a ballistic missile from a submarine on Saturday in the Sea of Japan. North Korea's KCNA news agency reported that Kim Jong Un, the country's leader, ordered the test launch and had deemed it a success.
"What is clear is that North Korea continues to engage in continuous provocative behavior, that they have been actively pursuing a nuclear program; an ability to launch nuclear weapons," Obama said in the German city of Hanover following talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday.
"And although, more often than not, they fail in many of these tests, they gain knowledge each time they engage in these tests," Obama added.
On Saturday, North Korea's Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong told The Associated Press news agency that his country was ready to halt its nuclear tests if the US suspended its joint military exercises with rival South Korea.
"Stop the nuclear war exercises in the Korean Peninsula, then we should also cease our nuclear tests," he said in his first interview with a Western news agency.
Obama retorted by saying that the US did not take North Korea's promises seriously.
The US president also called on North Korea's ally and neighbor China to apply pressure on the communist regime. He added that his country was prepared to ensure security to its allies, Japan and South Korea.
The UN Security Council condemned Pyongyang's tests in a statement on Sunday: "This incident constituted yet another serious violation by North Korea of United Nations Security Council resolutions."
"Stop the nuclear war exercises in the Korean Peninsula, then we should also cease our nuclear tests"
North Korea is to hold the 7th Congress of the Workers' Party on May 7, the first time such a meeting of the ruling party has been held since 1980. It is likely that the congress will see announcements of policies in a number of fields, including economics, politics, defense and relations with South Korea.
The recent nuclear test on January 6, which was condemned by the United States and regional neighbors, was seen by many observers as an attempt to boost the domestic legitimacy of Kim Jong Un ahead of the meeting.
Several analysts have suggested the regime might even carry out a fifth nuclear test before the congress opens to give a display of military strength to the world.
shs/cmk (AP, dpa)