North Korea on Monday tested a new ballistic missile controlled by a precision guidance system, supervised by leader Kim Jong-un who ordered the development of more powerful strategic weapons, the country's official news agency KCNA reported today.
The short-range missile launched on Monday was equipped with an advanced automated pre-launch sequence compared with previous versions of the 'Hwasong' rockets, North Korea's name for its Scud-class missiles, KCNA said. South Korea's military says this indicates a modified Scud-class missile.
In tweet on Monday, US President Donald Trump joined the leaders of South Korea and Japan in condemning the test, saying that North Korea had "shown great disrespect" for China by "shooting off yet another ballistic missile".
Meanwhile the Pentagon will today for the first time test its ability to shoot down an intercontinental ballistic missile using its own upgraded long-range interceptor missile in what is being widely seen as a test of US ability to counter the North Korean missile launch.
The test, which will take place in the skies over the Pacific Ocean, comes just two days after Pyongyang fired its short-range ballistic missile that travelled an estimated 248 miles, splashing down off its east coast within Japan's exclusive economic zone.
North Korea's test launch of a short-range ballistic missile was the latest in a fast-paced series of missile tests defying international pressure and threats of more sanctions.
Kim said the reclusive state would develop more powerful weapons in multiple phases in accordance with its timetable to defend North Korea against the United States.
"He expressed the conviction that it would make a greater leap forward in this spirit to send a bigger 'gift package' to the Yankees" in retaliation for American military provocation, KCNA said.
"Whenever news of our valuable victory is broadcast recently, the Yankees would be very much worried about it and the gangsters of the South Korean puppet army would be dispirited more and more," KCNA cited Kim as saying.
South Korea meanwhile said it had conducted a joint drill with a US supersonic B-1B Lancer bomber on Monday. North Korea's state media earlier accused the United States of staging a drill to practise dropping nuclear bombs on the Korean peninsula.
The US Navy said its aircraft carrier strike group, led by the USS Carl Vinson, also planned a drill with another US nuclear carrier, the USS Ronald Reagan, in waters near the Korean peninsula.
A US Navy spokesman in South Korea did not give specific timing for the strike group's planned drill.
Monday's launch followed two successful tests of medium-to-long-range missiles in as many weeks by the North, which has been conducting such tests at an unprecedented pace in an effort to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of hitting the mainland United States.
Such launches, and two nuclear tests since January 2016, have been conducted in defiance of UN resolutions and the threat of more sanctions.
They also pose one of the greatest security challenges for US President Donald Trump, who portrayed the latest missile test as an affront to China.
Japan has also urged China to play a bigger role in restraining North Korea's nuclear and missile programmes.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's top national security adviser, Shotaro Yachi, met China's top diplomat, State Councillor Yang Jiechi, for five hours of talks near Tokyo on Monday after the North's latest test.
Yachi told Yang that North Korea's actions had reached a new level of provocation.
A statement from China's foreign ministry after the meeting made no mention of North Korea.