The UN Security Council has said it was of "vital importance" that North Korea take immediate, concrete actions to reduce tensions.

People watch a TV screen showing a local news programme reporting about North Koreas missile launch at Seoul Train Station in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, August 30, 2017.
People watch a TV screen showing a local news programme reporting about North Koreas missile launch at Seoul Train Station in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, August 30, 2017. (AP)

The UN condemned North Korea's "outrageous" firing of a ballistic missile over Japan, demanding that the isolated country halts its weapons programme but holds back on any threat of new sanctions.

On Tuesday, North Korea fired a ballistic missile over northern Japan's Hokkaido island into the sea in a new show of force, causing reactions by the US, Japan and other countries.

In a statement, the 15-member Security Council said it was of "vital importance" that North Korea take immediate, concrete actions to reduce tensions and called on all states to implement UN sanctions.

But the US-drafted statement, which was agreed by consensus, does not threaten new sanctions on North Korea.

Diplomats say veto-wielding council members China and Russia typically only view a test of a long-range missile or a nuclear weapon as a trigger for further possible sanctions.

China's and Russia's ambassadors to the UN said they opposed any unilateral sanctions on North Korea and reiterated calls to halt the deployment of a US missile defence system in South Korea.

"I certainly hope that we'll be able to have a strong resolution following up this ... statement," Japan's Ambassador to the UN, Koro Bessho, told reporters after the meeting.

Speaking in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said China was discussing the situation with other Security Council members and would make a "necessary response" based on the consensus reached.

"Any measures against North Korea should be under the UN Security Council framework, and should be carried out according to Security Council resolutions," he told a news briefing.

Unilateral sanctions did not accord with international law, Wang added, a reference to sanctions imposed on Chinese firms and citizens by the United States and Japan.

China is the North's lone major ally.

TRT World’s Denee Savoia reports.

"Containing Guam"

The launch of an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) was to counter US and South Korean military drills and was a first step in military action in the Pacific to "contain" the US territory of Guam, said North Korea.

The North's leader, Kim Jong-un, ordered the launch to be conducted for the first time from its capital, Pyongyang, and said more exercises with the Pacific as the target were needed, the North's KCNA news agency said on Wednesday.

"The current ballistic rocket launching drill like a real war is the first step of the military operation of the KPA in the Pacific and a meaningful prelude to containing Guam," KCNA quoted Kim as saying. 

KPA stands for the Korean People's Army.

North Korea this month threatened to fire four missiles into the sea near Guam, home to a major US military presence, after President Donald Trump said the North would face "fire and fury" if it threatened the United States.

TRT World spoke to Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan in New Delhi.

"Complex missile defence flight test"

For its part, the US Defense Department's Missile Defense Agency announced a "complex" and successful missile defence flight test off Hawaii early on Wednesday, intercepting a medium-range ballistic missile target.

The US Defense Department's Missile Defense Agency and crew of the USS John Paul Jones tested a "complex missile defence flight test" off Hawaii early on Wednesday, resulting in the intercept of a medium-range ballistic missile target, the agency said.

"We are working closely with the fleet to develop this important new capability, and this was a key milestone in giving our Aegis BMD (Ballistic Missile Defence) ships an enhanced capability to defeat ballistic missiles in their terminal phase," said agency director Lieutenant General Sam Greaves in a statement without mentioning North Korea.

"We will continue developing ballistic missile defence technologies to stay ahead of the threat as it evolves."

"The US has been talking to North Korea, and paying them extortion money, for 25 years. Talking is not the answer!" Trump said on Twitter on Wednesday.

UK’s May in Japan

Speaking during a visit to the Japanese city of Osaka, British Prime Minister Theresa May called on China to put more pressure on North Korea, saying Beijing had a key role to play.

Asked about her comments, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said some "relevant sides" were only selectively carrying out the UN resolutions by pushing hard on sanctions yet neglecting to push for a return to talks.

She said this was not the attitude "responsible countries" should have when the "smell of gunpowder" remained strong over the Korean peninsula.

"When it comes to sanctions, they storm to the front but when it comes to pushing for peace they hide at the very back," Hua told a daily news briefing.

Chinas UN Ambassador Liu Jieyi addressed a meeting of the UN Security Council on North Korea, August 29, 2017 at UN headquarters.
Chinas UN Ambassador Liu Jieyi addressed a meeting of the UN Security Council on North Korea, August 29, 2017 at UN headquarters. (AP)

Lacking detail

Reports of the launch by North Korean media lacked the usual boasts of technical advances.

The missile flew 2,700 km (1,680 miles) before splashing down. The  journey was much shorter and at a lower trajectory than that of an earlier launch of the same missile type.

"It is not clear what new North Korea would have learned from this launch that is relevant to a long-range missile," missile expert David Wright of the Union of Concerned Scientists said.

The shorter range points to an intended early cutting of the engine thrust or a possible mechanical problem, as the trajectory would not have been useful in simulating re-entry or heating of the missile, Wright wrote in a blog post.

Euro dips below $1.20 

North Korea’s launch of a ballistic missile over Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido had been the primary cause for a risk-on, risk-off mood across markets on Tuesday, triggering a drop in US bond yields and dragging down the dollar index – which measures the greenback against a basket of six currencies – to a two-and-a-half year low.

The euro slipped back below $1.20 on Wednesday, as investors worried that a rally that has seen the single currency gain almost 14 percent since the start of the year might be running out of steam.

The dollar was broadly higher, recovering from a four-month low against the yen, as investors’ worries over North Korea’s latest missile test eased, boosting appetite for riskier assets.

The Japanese yen and Swiss franc – traditionally sought at times of political or financial uncertainty – had both surged on Tuesday, with the franc hitting its strongest against the dollar in two years.

Source: Reuters