The United States and Japan have called for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council over North Korea's latest missile test, amid tensions between Washington and Pyongyang.
On Sunday, Washington and Tokyo asked the council to convene an urgent meeting a few hours after South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff announced that Pyongyang had launched a ballistic missile earlier in the day, the second missile firing in two weeks.
The missile test, however, was the first since South Korea's new President Moon Jae-In came to power with the promise of reducing tensions with the North.
The Sunday's projectile was launched from a military base in the vicinity of Kusong, in central North Pyongan province, near the country's northwestern coast, and traveled some 700 kilometers before landing in the Sea of Japan.
On Monday, the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said that Sunday's launch had been a "newly-developed mid/long-range strategic ballistic rocket, Hwasong-12," adding that North's leader Kim Jong-Un had "personally" overseen the test-launch.
The report further said that new type of missile was capable of "loading powerful heavy-weight nuclear warheads. It also claimed that the rocket managed to soar to "the maximum peak altitude of 2,111.5 kilometers."
US President Donald Trump condemned the test and called for tougher sanctions against Pyongyang. "Let this latest provocation serve as a call for all nations to implement far stronger sanctions against North Korea," he said in a brief statement.
Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, also echoed Trump's comments, saying there was "no excuses that justify" Pyongyang's actions. "This was close to home for Russia. China can't expect dialogue. This threat is real," she tweeted.
NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu also slammed the missile test in a statement and labelled the North's move as "a new flagrant breach of a series of United Nations Security Council Resolutions," constituting "a threat to international peace and security."
European Commission spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic also denounced the launch, saying it was "a threat to international peace and security (that could) further aggravate tensions in the region at a time when de-escalation is instead needed."
The latest test was the North’s first launch since a US missile system, known as Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), deployed in the South became operational earlier this month. Pyongyang has time and again slammed US moves in the region, which it sees as a threat to its security.
Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have significantly increased in the past several weeks. The US, concerned by North Korea’s rapidly-developing missile and military nuclear programs, has sent a strike force to the peninsula. Pyongyang has said it is combat-ready. The two sides have been increasingly trading threats of military action against one another.
Amid the recent tensions, the US has called on China, which is also North Korea’s major economic benefactor, to help increase pressure on Pyongyang to have it abandon its nuclear program. While China has opposed any military action against North Korea, it has long maintained that Pyongyang should not have a military nuclear program and has recently increased pressure on Pyongyang by imposing sanctions of its own.
The North, already under an array of sanctions for its missile and nuclear programs, says it is developing arms as deterrence against the US threat. North Korea has also said that it would not abandon its missile and nuclear programs unless the US ended its hostility toward Pyongyang.