World leaders condemn latest provocation from North Korea

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North Korea launches Hwasong-15 missile yesterday

North Korea's claim of successfully testing its most powerful intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) has drawn global condemnation, with China voicing "grave concern" while Russia urged calm.

The new Hwasong-15 missile, fired after more than two months of tranquillity in the peninsula, flew nearly 960km over 53 minutes and reached an altitude of 4,500km before landing in Japan's exclusive economic zone yesterday.

North Korea said this marks the "completion" of its nuclear programme.

South Korean President Moon Jae In and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed to ramp up pressure against the North, noting that they can no longer tolerate its provocations.

Mr Moon also spoke with United States President Donald Trump in a phone call, and they agreed that nuclear weapons "only serve to undermine North Korea's security and deepen its diplomatic and economic isolation", the White House said.

China's Foreign Ministry expressed its "grave concern and opposition", calling on Pyongyang to abide by United Nations Security Council resolutions.

Russia warned against escalating tensions. A Kremlin spokesman urged calm to prevent the "worst scenario" on the Korean peninsula.

Yesterday's missile was fired from a lofted angle at 3.14am (Korea time) from the western South Pyongan province.

It could have flown more than 10,000km on a normal trajectory, which experts said could allow it to strike Hawaii.

North Korea's state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the missile is capable of carrying a "super large" nuclear warhead and striking the whole US mainland.

Leader Kim Jong Un, who observed the test, declared the completion of "state nuclear force".

The KCNA also said that North Korea, as a "responsible nuclear power and peace-loving state", will make "every possible effort" to defend global peace and stability.

The irony, however, is that the test marked a return to provocations by the belligerent state after an unusually quiet period of 75 days.

Pyongyang last lobbed a missile over Japan on Sept 15.

Some analysts felt that North Korea had been careful not to overplay its hand.

"In this way, Kim Jong Un is a strategist...

"He wants to have a workable nuclear arsenal (but) firing the missile over Japan, given its range, will surely provoke the US too far," said Kobe University's security expert Tosh Minohara.

Dr Park Jee Kwang from the Sejong Institute think-tank said Pyongyang took a longer time to prepare a missile that is "a little bit more advanced" than the previously tested Hwasong-14, adding: "They will launch missiles whenever they are ready. I don't think international response... will have any influence on their missile schedule."

The missile test carries a message of "full-on defiance", said Mr Danny Russel of the Asia Society Policy Institute.

He said: "I think there is unmistakable evidence that the US, Japan and China are resolved not to permit North Korea to prevail in its effort to win legitimacy for its illegal nuclear and missile programmes... (so) there will be another turn of the sanctions crank." - ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY GOH SUI NOI IN BEIJING & WALTER SIM IN TOKYO