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North Korea has confirmed that it test-fired a medium-range ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan. The US, Japan and South Korea have requested urgent UN Security Council consultations concerning the launch.
North Korea on Monday claimed further advancement in its weapons program after confirming it had successfully test-fired a medium-to-long range ballistic missile.
The North's state news agency, KCNA, said that a "surface-to-surface medium long-range ballistic missile Pukguksong-2... was successfully test-fired on Sunday."
The agency also reported that leader Kim Jong Un was present for the launch and "expressed great satisfaction over the possession of another powerful nuclear attack means which adds to the tremendous might of the country."
"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," KCNA announced.
News of the launch was first reported by South Korea's Defense Ministry on Sunday, after the missile had been launched into Sea of Japan.
The launch came as Japanese premier Shinzo Abe was on an official visit to the US, meeting President Donald Trump. Sunday's test-launch was Pyongyang's first since Trump's inauguration last month and was widely interpreted as a direct challenge to the new president.
The US, Japan and South Korea announced that they had requested an urgent UN Security Council meeting to discuss the missile test, a US mission spokesperson confirmed late on Sunday. It may take place as soon as Monday afternoon.
'Provocative and unacceptable'
Pyongyang's actions sparked a flood of condemnation from neighboring states and the international community.
South Korea's Defense Ministry said the launch was "not only an explicit and clear violation of related UN Security Council resolutions, but also a grave threat to the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula and the international community as a whole."
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the North must "refrain from further provocations" and urged it to "re-engage in a credible and meaningful dialogue with the international community."
Federica Mogherini, the EU's foreign policy chief, said in a statement: "The DPRK's repeated disregard of its international obligations is provocative and unacceptable."
Pyongyang is barred under UN resolutions from any ballistic missile technology.
The UN imposed sanctions on the North following its first nuclear tests in 2006. Those sanctions, however, have failed to halt the pace of its arms development. North Korea conducted two nuclear tests and a number of rocket launches last year in ongoing efforts to apparently expand its nuclear weapons and missile programs.
In his New Year's address, Kim said the North's preparations for launching an intercontinental ballistic missile had "reached the final stage."
dm/jm (Reuters, dpa, AFP)