North Korea says it has successfully tested a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that can reach the whole of continental United States.
State television said Pyongyang had achieved its mission of becoming a nuclear state.
The Hwasong-15 missile, described as its “most powerful”, was launched in darkness early on Wednesday.
It landed in Japanese waters but flew higher than any other missile the North had previously tested.
The test, which defied international sanctions imposed over the North’s weapons programme, drew swift international condemnation, with the UN Security Council due to convene an emergency session.
South Korea responded by carrying out live-fire exercises, launching one of its own ballistic missiles.
What exactly is North Korea saying?
News of the launch was announced on state television in a special broadcast at midday, as well as in a report released by state news agency KCNA.
Pyongyang says the missile reached an altitude of 4,475km (2,780 miles) and flew 950km in 53 minutes, close to independent estimates made by South Korea’s military.
The projectile, fired at a steep incline, did not fly over Japan as some have done in the past, and landed about 250km short of its northern coast, according to Japanese officials.
Could its missile really reach the US?
An analysis by the US-based Union of Concerned Scientists concludes that the missile could have travelled more than 13,000km on a standard trajectory, thus reaching “any part of the continental United States”.
But it seems likely, the analysis adds, that the missile had a very light mock warhead, meaning it might lack the power to carry a nuclear payload, which is much heavier, over that distance.
How is the world reacting?
Prior to North Korea’s statement, US defence secretary James Mattis said the missile launch had gone “higher, frankly, than any previous shots they have taken”, and said North Korea posed a worldwide threat.
US President Donald Trump was briefed while the missile was still in the air, the White House said. Afterwards he said: “We will take care of it.”
In other reaction:
- UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said the launch had violated sanctions and shown “complete disregard for the united view of the international community”
- China expressed “grave concern” and urged all parties to show caution
- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called the launch an intolerable, violent act
- The Kremlin described the test as a “provocation”
- South Korean President Moon Jae-in accused the North of “reckless” behaviour but added that there was no choice but to keep applying sanctions
The launch is the latest in a series of weapons tests that have raised tensions to unprecedented levels, as North Korea ignores criticism and continues to develop its nuclear and missile programmes.
Pyongyang last launched a ballistic missile in September, the same month it conducted its sixth nuclear test.