The UN Security Council on Monday strongly condemned North Korea's latest ballistic missile test and vowed to ratchet up the pressure on the regime, including sanctions, ahead of an emergency meeting to discuss the launch.
North Korea on Sunday launched what appeared to be its longest-range ballistic missile yet, saying it was capable of carrying a "heavy nuclear warhead" in a test aimed at bringing the US mainland within reach.
In a unanimous statement backed by China, the council vowed strong measures in response to Pyongyang's "highly destabilising behaviour" and demanded a halt to "further nuclear and ballistic missiles tests".
Pyongyang has carried out two atomic tests and dozens of missile launches since the beginning of 2016, with the Security Council adopting two sanctions resolutions last year to ramp up the pressure and deny leader Kim Jong-Un the hard currency needed to fund his military programmes.
"There's a lot of sanctions left that we can start to do, whether it's with oil, whether it's with energy, whether it's with their maritime ships, exports," US ambassador Nikki Haley told ABC television's This Week".
"We can do a lot of different things that we haven't done yet. So our options are there."
The United States is in talks with China – Pyongyang's sole major ally and main trading partner – on a possible new sanctions resolution and the council is expected to discuss its steps during a closed-door meeting on Tuesday.
'A substantial advance'
Kim personally oversaw Sunday's test, the official Korea Central News Agency (KCNA) said, and pictures by state media showed him gazing at the missile in a hangar before the launch.
In others, he gleefully clasped hands with officers and staff after the black missile – named as the Hwasong-12 – ascended into the sky in the dawn light, atop a column of fire.
Under UN resolutions, North Korea is barred from developing nuclear and missile technology, with six sets of sanctions imposed on the isolated regime since it first tested an atomic device in 2006.
The missile was launched on an unusually high trajectory, with KCNA saying it flew to an altitude of 2,111.5 kilometres and travelled 787 kilometres before coming down in the Sea of Japan (East Sea).
That suggests a range of 4,500 kilometres or more if flown for maximum distance, analysts said.
Aside from Pyongyang's space launches, Jeffrey Lewis of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in the US said: "This is the longest-range missile North Korea has ever tested."
On the respected 38 North website, aerospace engineering specialist John Schilling said it appeared to demonstrate an intermediate-range ballistic missile that could "reliably strike the US base at Guam" in the Pacific, 3,400 kilometres away.
"More importantly," he added, it "may represent a substantial advance to developing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM)".
The North has made no secret of its quest to develop a missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to the continental United States –something President Donald Trump has vowed "won't happen".
KCNA cited Kim as saying the North would never succumb to what it called the "highly ridiculous" US strategy of "militarily browbeating only weak countries and nations which have no nukes".
"If the US dares opt for a military provocation against the DPRK, we are ready to counter it," it said.
Last week South Korea elected a new president, Moon Jae-In, who advocates reconciliation with Pyongyang and said at his inauguration that he was willing "in the right circumstances" to visit the North to ease tensions.
But he slammed the latest test as a "reckless provocation" and said dialogue would be possible "only if the North changes its attitude".
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday the North's latest missile test was dangerous but warned against attempts to "intimidate" Pyongyang.
"We consider (the missile test) counter-productive, harmful and dangerous," Putin told reporters after an international forum in Beijing.
But he added: "We must stop intimidating North Korea and find a peaceful solution to this problem."
In April Pyongyang put dozens of missiles on show at a giant military parade through the capital, including one that appeared to be the type launched on Sunday.
There are doubts whether the North can miniaturise a nuclear weapon sufficiently to fit it onto a missile nose cone, and no proof it has mastered the re-entry technology needed to ensure it survives returning into Earth's atmosphere.
Updated Date: May 16, 2017 06:16 AM