North Korea: New long-range missile can carry heavy nuke

However, the USA president has also said he is open to talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un over Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programmes.

North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency called the missile, launched early Sunday from a site near its border with China, a "new ground-to-ground medium long-range strategic ballistic rocket", and said the "Hwasong-12" was "capable of carrying a large, heavy nuclear warhead".

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said North Korea's missile launches were a "grave threat to our country and a clear violation of United Nations resolutions".

"With the missile impacting so close to Russian soil - in fact, closer to Russia than to Japan - the President can not imagine that Russia is pleased", the White House said.

"The launch may indeed represent a new missile with a long range", said Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, referring to the estimated altitude of more than 2000 km.

Aside from space launches, Jeffrey Lewis of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in the U.S. told AFP: "This is the longest range missile North Korea has ever tested".

The latest test was the North's first launch since a USA missile defence system that has been deployed in the South became operational on 2 May, and comes shortly after a failed ballistic missile test on 29 April. It may constitute a "substantial advance" toward developing an intercontinental ballistic missile, he said.

A spokesperson of the European External Action Service (EEAS), the EU's diplomatic service, noted in a statement that North Korea move seriously violated multiple UN Security Council resolutions.

Today's claim, if confirmed, would mark another big advance toward the North's goal of fielding a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the USA mainland.

Trump later appeared to hold open the door to negotiations, saying he would be "honoured" to meet Kim and called him a "smart cookie".

In Seoul, presidential secretary Yoon Young-chan said Mr Moon expressed deep regret over the fact that this reckless provocation... occurred just days after a new government was launched in South Korea.

State media paraphrased North Korea's leader as saying that "the most flawless weapon systems in the world will never become the eternal exclusive property of the USA", warning that "the US should not. disregard or misjudge the reality that its mainland and Pacific operation region are in (North Korea's) sighting range for strike".

North Korea warned Washington not to provoke it, saying the "US mainland and Pacific operations" are within range of Pyongyang missiles.

The launch defies United Nations sanctions and provides an early challenge for South Korea's new leader, Moon Jae-in, who has vowed to engage with the regime to bring peace to the peninsula.

The North's leader, Kim, has said it was in final stages of developing an ICBM.

Pyongyang conducted two nuclear tests and dozens of missile launches a year ago, drawing strong condemnation from the global community. Japan also responded swiftly, with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe calling the launch unacceptable, and reiterating that the North's repeated provocations are a grave threat to the country and a clear violation of UN Security Council resolutions.

The White House took note of the missile landing close to Russia's Pacific coast and said in a statement that North Korea has been "a flagrant menace for far too long".

Several South Korean analysts, including Lee Illwoo, a Seoul-based commentator on military issues, said the missile flew higher and for a longer period than any other the North has ever test-fired.

The USS Carl Vinson, an aircraft supercarrier, is also engaging with South Korean navy ships in waters off the Korean Peninsula, according to Seoul's Defense Ministry.

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