Pyongyang's latest launch was a huge, new intercontinental ballistic missile, state media reports, in a test leader Kim Jong-un said was designed to demonstrate might of its nuclear force and deter any US military moves.
North Korea has said it test-fired its biggest-yet intercontinental ballistic missile (or ICBM) under the orders of leader Kim Jong-un, who vowed to expand the North's "nuclear war deterrent" while preparing for a "long-standing confrontation" with the United States.
North Korea's Kim personally oversaw the test-firing of the country's "new type" of ICBM to boost its nuclear deterrent against the US "imperialists," state media reported early on Friday.
Thursday launch was the first time Pyongyang has fired Kim's most powerful missiles at the full range since 2017, and it appears to have travelled higher and further than any previous ICBM tested by the nuclear-armed country.
The test launch of the "new type inter-continental ballistic missile" the Hwasong-17 was conducted under the "direct guidance" of leader Kim, KCNA reported.
State media carried photographs of Kim, wearing his customary black leather jacket and dark sunglasses, walking across the tarmac in front of a large missile carried on an 11-axle transporter.
"The missile, launched at Pyongyang International Airport, travelled up to a maximum altitude of 6,248.5 km and flew a distance of 1,090 km for 4,052s before accurately hitting the pre-set area in open waters" in the Sea of Japan, KCNA said.
The missile landed in Japanese territorial waters, prompting anger from Tokyo, but KCNA said the launch had been carried out "in a vertical launch mode in consideration of the security of neighbouring countries".
The Hwasong-17 is a giant ICBM first unveiled in October 2020 and dubbed a "monster missile" by analysts. It had never previously been successfully test-fired, and the launch prompted immediate outrage from Pyongyang's neighbours and the United States.
The ICBM is the largest liquid-fuelled missile ever launched by any country from a road-mobile launcher, analysts say.
Kim said the new weapon would "creditably perform its mission and duty as a powerful nuclear war deterrent," according to KCNA.
He "remarked with pride that the emergence of the new strategic weapon of the DPRK would make the whole world clearly aware of the power of our strategic armed forces once again," KCNA reported.
KCNA said that the successful test-firing of the Hwasong-17 meant North Korea was ready for a long-term confrontation with the United States.
Kim said his country now has "formidable military and technical capabilities unperturbed by any military threat and blackmail" and would be "fully ready for long-standing confrontation with the US imperialists," KCNA reported.
Long-range and nuclear tests have been paused since Kim met then-US president Donald Trump for about of doomed diplomacy, which collapsed in 2019.
But North Korea threatened earlier this year it could abandon a self-imposed moratorium on such testing, and the US and South Korea had warned this month Pyongyang was preparing to launch an ICBM at full range.
North Korea has long coveted an ICBM that can carry multiple warheads and, Seoul and Washington say, it has been testing the Hwasong-17 under cover of developing a "reconnaissance satellite".
But the country's new ICBM launch comes at a delicate time for the region, with South Korea going through a presidential transition until May, and the US distracted by Russia's assault on Ukraine.