North Korea says it has successfully tested its first long-range “intercontinental” missile.
If confirmed, the intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) could potentially have the range to reach the US mainland.
The US said the missile that landed in the Sea of Japan on Tuesday was of intermediate range and did not pose a threat to North America.
North Korea has increased the frequency of its missile tests, raising tensions.
An announcement on North Korea state television said a Hwasong-14 missile was tested on Tuesday, overseen by leader Kim Jong-un.
It said the projectile reached an altitude of 2,802km (1,731 miles) and flew 933km before hitting a target in the sea.
A statement on the official KCNA news agency said North Korea was now “a full-fledged nuclear power that has been possessed of the most powerful inter-continental ballistic rocket capable of hitting any part of the world”.
It would enable the country to “put an end to the US nuclear war threat and blackmail” and defend the Korean peninsula, it said.
While Pyongyang has appeared to have made progress, experts believe North Korea does not have the capability to accurately hit a target with an ICBM, or miniaturise a nuclear warhead that can fit on to such a missile.
What is an ICBM?
- A long-range missile usually designed to carry a nuclear warhead
- The minimum range is 5,500km (3,400 miles), although most fly around 10,000km or more
- Pyongyang has displayed two types of ICBMs: the KN-08, with a range of 11,500km, and the KN-14, with a range of 10,000km, but before 4 July had not claimed to have flight tested an ICBM
- Pyongyang’s second challenge is to develop a small nuclear warhead to fit on an ICBM
How far could it travel? by Stephen Evans, BBC News, Seoul
The big question is: What range does this missile have – could it hit the United States? One expert already thinks that it might be able to reach Alaska but not the lower states.
David Wright, a physicist with the US-based Union of Concerned Scientists, said: “If the reports are correct, that same missile could reach a maximum range of roughly 6,700km (4,160 miles) on a standard trajectory.
“That range would not be enough to reach the lower 48 states or the large islands of Hawaii, but would allow it to reach all of Alaska.”
It’s not just a missile that North Korea would need but also the ability to protect a warhead as it re-enters the atmosphere, and it’s not clear if North Korea can do that.
On the prospect of North Korea being able to strike the US, President Donald Trump tweeted in January: “It won’t happen”. The truth is that it might – most experts think within five years, probably less. What would President Trump do then?
What are neighbours and the US saying?
South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in has called on the UN Security Council to take steps against North Korea.
Japan described “repeated provocations like this are absolutely unacceptable” and PM Shinzo Abe said his country would “unite strongly” with the US and South Korea to put pressure on Pyongyang.
US President Donald Trump also responded swiftly on Tuesday.
On his Twitter account he made apparent reference to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, saying: “Does this guy have anything better to do with his life?”
“Hard to believe that South Korea and Japan will put up with this much longer. Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!”
He has repeatedly called on China, Pyongyang’s closest economic ally, to pressure North Korea to end its nuclear and missile programmes.
Meanwhile, Beijing called for “restraint” following the latest test.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China was opposed to North Korea going against clear UN Security Council resolutions on its missile launches, according to Reuters.