North Korea launched a suspected intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on Friday, officials in South Korea and Japan said.
The missile was most likely to have landed in the water about 210 kilometers (130 miles) west of Hokkaido, according to the Japan Coast Guard.
According to Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada, the missile had sufficient range to reach the United States mainland.
Seoul's Joint Chiefs of Staff said it had "detected a presumed long-range ballistic missile around 10:15 am (1:15 am GMT) fired from the Sunan area in Pyongyang towards the East Sea." This was a reference to the Sea of Japan.
According to the presidential office, the National Security Council of South Korea convened on Friday to discuss the alleged ICBM launch.
The US said it "strongly condemns" North Korea's "test of a long-range ballistic missile."
The reclusive country, led by strongman Kim Jong Un, recently launched an ICBM on November 3. Experts, however, believe the missile failed to fly its intended course and fell into the ocean. The latest launch on Friday appears to have been a more successful test for Pyongyang.
Kim said the test of a newly developed intercontinental ballistic missile confirmed that his country has another "reliable and maximum capacity" weapon to contain outside threats.
He warned the United States and its allies that what he called their provocative steps would lead to "their self-destruction," state media reported.
Missile tests spark worry
The launch on Friday comes a day after North Korea fired a short-range ballistic missile. Pyongyang has warned it will carry out further such actions, sparking worries that a nuclear test may occur soon.
The ICBM is North Korea's longest-range missile and is capable of delivering a nuclear payload to any point in the continental United States.
Pyongyang launched 23 missiles on November 2, surpassing its total for the full year of 2017.
These tests are prohibited by United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions that have sanctioned the nation over its missile and nuclear weapons programs.
'Brazen violation of multiple UNSC resolutions'
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida called Friday's launch "absolutely unacceptable," while adding that no damage to ships or aircraft has been reported.
Washington said in a statement that it will take all necessary steps to protect its country as well as the security of its allies Japan and South Korea.
"This launch is a brazen violation of multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions and needlessly raises tensions and risks destabilizing the security situation in the region," US National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said in a statement.
US Vice President Kamala Harris condemned Pyongyang's latest ICBM launch, holding an emergency meeting on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Bangkok.
"We strongly condemn these actions and again call on North Korea to stop further unlawful destabilizing acts," Harris said. "On behalf of the United States I reaffirmed our ironclad commitment to our Indo-Pacific alliances."
White House National security spokesman John Kirby said that Washington did not consider that the launch posed a threat to the US.
"As concerning as this launch was, we did not deem it a threat to homeland," he said, adding that Pyongyang had not responded to a US offer for dialogue.
A senior official accompanying Harris said that Washington will ask China to join it in condemning the launch.
"It will definitely be part of our diplomacy to try to get China to join the countries that are on record condemning this today and use its influence to persuade," the official said.
Russia, a tacit ally of North Korea, said it was "concerned" about the situation on the Korean peninsula and called for all parties to avoid confrontation. Moscow, however, accused Washington of provoking North Korea, with deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov saying "it's as if Pyongyang's patience is being tested."
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres strongly condemned Pyongyang's missile launch, the UN chief's spokesperson said in a statement.
Guterres also called for North Korea to "immediately desist" from taking any further provocative actions.
North Korea decries joint military exercises
On Thursday, North Korea's foreign minister, Choe Son Hui, criticized a trilateral meeting between the US, South Korea, and Japan, during which the leaders denounced Pyongyang's missile tests and committed to stronger security cooperation.
Choe said their "war drills for aggression" were inviting a "more serious, realistic and inevitable threat" upon themselves.
"The keener the US is on the 'bolstered offer of extended deterrence' to its allies and the more they intensify provocative and bluffing military activities ... the fiercer the DPRK's military counteraction will be," Choe said in a statement.
"The US will be well aware that it is gambling, for which it will certainly regret," Choe added.
In response to the nuclear-armed North's rising provocations, Washington has been working to strengthen regional security cooperation and increase joint military exercises. The North perceives all such actions as signs of US aggression.
North Korea's latest missile launches were the topic of conversation between US President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping earlier this week, as well as talks between Xi and Kishida.
Meanwhile, when Chinese and Japanese leaders met for the first time in three years on Thursday at the APEC meeting in Bangkok, North Korea again topped the agenda.
rs, ss/aw (AP, AFP, Reuters)