North Korea confirmed on Wednesday (29 November) that it successfully tested a Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile earlier in the day. The missile, fired around 3am local time (6pm UK time the previous day), landed in Japanese waters and triggered international outrage.
A newsreader on the state-run North Korean Central Television (KCTV) announced that the launch was ordered by supreme leader Kim Jong-un and the broadcast showed a photograph of him signing the orders.
The news broadcast added that the projectile fired was an upgraded version of the Hwasong-14 that was test-fired twice in July from near Pyongyang. The intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) landed in its targeted area after flying 950km, CNN News reported quoting the newsreader.
Earlier, South Korea's Yonhap news agency had reported that the hermit kingdom was going to make an "important" announcement around noon local time and noted that the North's state-run radio station refrained from divulging any more information.
In a government statement released through state media, North Koreasaid the Hwasong-15, the "greatest ICBM," could be armed with a "super-large heavy nuclear warhead" and is capable of striking the "whole mainland" of the United States.
The missile, fired from north of Pyongyang, rose to a height of 4,500km — the highest-ever for the North. Japan said the missile landed into its special economic zone.
The South Korean military retaliated with a missile launch exercise near the eastern sea border soon after the North's ICBM launch, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff was quoted by South China Morning Post as saying.
The "precision strike" missile exercise reportedly lasted about 20 minutes. The drill involved an army missile unit, a navy Aegis ship and an air force KF-16 fighter jet — all of which fired at a simulated target the same distance away as the site from where the North launched its missile.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement that the US "strongly condemns" the launch. "Diplomatic options remain viable and open, for now," he noted.
"The United States remains committed to finding a peaceful path to denuclearization and to ending belligerent actions by North Korea."