Washington urges direct talks with no preconditions about Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programmes after the latter tested what it called the most powerful missile since 2017 and took pictures from space.

North Korea releases pictures reportedly taken from outer space with a camera at the warhead of the missile, in this image released on January 31, 2022.
North Korea releases pictures reportedly taken from outer space with a camera at the warhead of the missile, in this image released on January 31, 2022. (Reuters)

The United States has made a direct appeal to North Korea to join direct talks with no preconditions about its nuclear and missile programmes, after Pyongyang sent a suspected intermediate-range ballistic missile soaring into space.

"We believe it is completely appropriate and completely correct to start having some serious discussions," a senior Biden administration official told reporters on Sunday.

The United States, under President Joe Biden, has repeatedly sought talks with North Korea but has been rebuffed each time.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un held three summits with Biden's predecessor, Donald Trump, but the talks did not realise Kim's demand for a removal of sanctions on Pyongyang.

The official said the latest North Korean test was part of an "increasingly destabilising" pattern and in violation of UN Security Council resolutions and therefore international law.

READ MORE: US warns North Korea to cease 'unlawful' missile launches

Largest missile test by N Korea

The official spoke after North Korea conducted its largest missile test since 2017 on Sunday. The launch was seen as a step closer to North Korea resuming long-range testing.

The official said "of course we're concerned" that Pyongyang might resume long-range testing and end its self-imposed moratorium on nuclear testing.

"It requires a response," he said. 

"You will see us taking some steps that are designed to show our commitment to our allies ... and at the same time we reiterate our call for diplomacy. We stand ready and we are very serious about trying to have discussions that address concerns on both sides."

READ MORE: North Korea tests longest-range missile in five years

Test of most powerful missile since 2017

North Korea confirmed on Monday said it had tested a Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM), state media reported.

"The inspection firing test was conducted for the purpose of selectively inspecting the ground-to-ground mid-range long-range ballistic missile Hwasong-12 and verifying the overall accuracy of this weapon system," North Korean state news agency KCNA said. North Korea has previously said the Hwasong-12 can carry a "large-size heavy nuclear warhead."
KCNA said the missile launch was conducted in such a way as to ensure the safety of neighbouring countries, and that the test warhead was fitted with a camera that took photos while it was in space.

Photos released by state media showed space-based images of North Korea and the surrounding areas through a round camera lens. North Korea first took such photos in 2017, analysts said.

READ MORE: N.Korea confirms missile tests, Kim praises 'important' munitions factory

Source: Reuters