North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who personally oversaw the launch of two medium-range Musudan missiles, has praised the country's defence forces, saying that the regime is capable of attacking US positions. While the first attempt reportedly ended in failure, the North managed to rectify the problems and successfully launched the missile the second time.

Heaping praise on those who worked on the programme, Kim said: "We have the sure capability to attack in an overall and practical way the Americans in the Pacific operation theatre."

According to Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the leader explained: "It is needed to increase in a sustained way our pre-emptive nuclear attack capability and continue the study and development of diverse strategic attack weapons. The current test-fire marked an important occasion in further strengthening the nuclear attack capacity of our state."

Analysts suspect that the second launch, which took place on Wednesday (22 June), was successful after the defiant North Korean regime failed in its five previous attempts since April 2016. The twin launch is in violation of UN regulations, even as Pyongyang remains under an economic clampdown over its nuclear and missiles activities.

Multiple nations have condemned the launch including the US and Japan – who have been wary of Pyongyang's nuclear programme.

Responding to Wednesday's launch, US Defence Secretary, Ashton Carter, told reporters: "I don't know whether it was successful. I don't know what the test objectives were as seen by the North Koreans.

"But for whatever reason, and with whatever level of success, this shows the need for us to continue to do what we're doing, which is build these missile defences of various ranges to protect both our South Korean allies, US forces on the Korean Peninsula, Japan, and US territory."

The US already has plans to deploy the sophisticated Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (Thaad) missile shield system in South Korea in the wake of increasing threats from the North – despite strong opposition from China.

Meanwhile, the UN Security Council - in an unusual move - held an emergency session over the Musudan launches. Previously, the Council had only released statements criticising the regime for testing missiles. The French envoy, who currently holds the monthly rotating presidency of the Council, said that the top UN body is expected to issue a formal statement on the matter shortly.

North Korea missile launch Kim Jong-un
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un watches a long range rocket launched into the air in this still imageReuters file photo