China has carried out an anti-missile test amid the tense situation prevailing in the neighbouring Korean peninsula. Beijing's defence ministry said the missile interception test was successful as the land-based projectile struck the target mid-course.

The communist regime under President Xi Jinping has been strengthening its arsenal in recent years and missiles of various types and ranges are being developed.

"The test reached its expected goals. This test was defensive and not aimed at any country," said the defence ministry.

Officials have not released more details about the missile's capabilities or where it was tested but only said the launch took place on Monday, 5 February.

Pictures of luminous clouds were spotted in northwestern China's Xinjiang Uyghur autonomous region and the images quickly spread online via social media raising speculation. This is the third time China has publicly acknowledged its mid-course interception test; the earlier ones taking place in 2010 and 2013.

"The mid-course of the long-range ballistic missile is located in the outer atmosphere, where the interception could reduce damage to the target on our side. The higher the interception is made, the smaller the damage to us would be," Yang Chengjun, a Chinese missile expert, told the country's state-backed mouthpiece Global Times.

News about the anti-missile test comes in the wake of months-long international tensions pertaining to North Korea, which has been defiantly improving its missile and nuclear capabilities.

China, along with Russia, has strongly opposed the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) anti-missile system by the US in South Korea. Beijing has argued its territories will also be covered by Thaad's powerful radar but the US repeatedly denies it saying is only aimed against Pyongyang.