North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on Sunday observed the test launch of a new ballistic missile that can carry a large nuclear warhead and has the USA mainland within striking range, state media claimed Monday.
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".
North Korean propaganda must be considered with wariness - Pyongyang has threatened for decades to reduce Seoul to a "sea of fire", for instance - but Monday's claim, if confirmed, would mark another big advance toward the North's goal of fielding a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the USA mainland.
Despite North Korea's claim that Sunday's test simulated a re-entry situation, South Korean defense officials say the North probably has yet to master the technology.
Meanwhile, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres urged Pyongyang to return to the path of denuclearization saying the latest ballistic missile launch by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) is a threat to peace and security in the region. The missile flew some 500 miles and fell in the Sea of Japan.
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South Korea's military said it could not yet verify the North's claims.
Council diplomats said the language was significant because China, North Korea's strongest ally, signed on.
The missile travelled some 700km (435 miles), reaching an altitude of 2,000km and landing in the sea west of Japan.
North Korea on Sunday tested what appears to be its longest-range ballistic missile to date, saying it was capable of carrying a "heavy nuclear warhead". "If the USA awkwardly attempts to provoke [North Korea], it will not escape from the biggest disaster in the history", Kim was quoted as saying.
The launch complicates the new South Korean president's plan to talk to the North, and came as U.S., Japanese and European navies gather for joint war games in the Pacific.
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Last week, it demanded that the South hand over its spy chief.
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 previous year to ramp up pressure and deny leader Kim Jong-Un the hard currency needed to fund his military programmes.
"We should understand that just because a liberal president has been elected, it doesn't mean that Pyongyang is going to suddenly stop testing", Ken Gause, director of the International Affairs Group at the Center for Naval Analyses, told VOA.
If North Koreans had fired the missile at a lower angle, rather than "almost straight up, ... it would have gone maybe as much as 4,000 kilometers, and that is not technically an intercontinental [ballistic missile], but it's still a longer range" than any North Korean missile had previously tested.
A South Korean army soldier walks by a TV news program showing a file image of missiles being test-launched by North Korea, at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, May 14, 2017.
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Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told reporters in Sydney on Monday that North Korea's conduct was "reckless", "provocative" and "unlawful".