By Sara Malm, Iain Burns

Kim Jong-un has called Friday's missile test launch over Japan a "shining victory in the standoff with the United States", claiming that the US is in "mortal fear" of North Korea.

The missile flew over the northern island of Hokkaido, where thousands were awoken by air-raid sirens for the second time in just three weeks, and landed some 1,995 km (1,240 miles) off the cape of Erimo just before 7am local time.

The rocket, believed to be a intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), flew for about 19 minutes over a distance of about 3,701 km (2,300 miles), according to South Korea's military - far enough to reach the US Pacific territory of Guam, which is 3,379 km (2,100 miles) from North Korea.

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In a statement released by North Korea's state media, Pyongyang claimed that rather than condemnation and horror, the nuclear missile test had been met with "admiration", the Daily Mail reports.

"People from across the world have expressed admiration at the DPRK's bold pluck and great potentiality," the statement began.

"Media of many countries are zealously reporting about the DPRK's nuclear attack capability, which has reached the high level able to ensure the accuracy and freely control the striking power according to targeted object and purpose, and about the failure of the US policy toward the DPRK.

"The DPRK has won a shining victory in the standoff with the US.

"Now no one can disregard the immense national strength and potentiality of the DPRK and deny its strategic position as a responsible nuclear weapons state with a great clout.

"The US has tightened sanctions and blockade by mobilizing its vassal forces to stifle the DPRK. But it could not check the advance of the army and people of the DPRK.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaks with officials. Photo / AP
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaks with officials. Photo / AP

"The US, styling itself as a superpower while boasting of its strength before other big powers, is in mortal fear of the DPRK. It is always seized with phobia of nuclear disaster.

"No one in the world can block the advance of Juche Korea and its heroic people dashing ahead for bright future under the banner of the line of simultaneously developing the two fronts raised by the great Party."

The missile test was carried out mere hours after North Korea threatened to nuke Japan and reduce the US "to ashes and darkness" in response to the latest sanctions imposed by the UN, which puts a cap on textile exports and import of crude oil.

Japan's defence minister Itsunori Onodera said Friday he believed North Korea has the US territory in mind with its recent nuclear missile tests. as he warned that "similar actions (by the North) would continue".

"We cannot assume North Korea's intention, but given what it has said, I think it has Guam in mind," Onodera said.

The US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis branded North Korea "reckless", however, he said he did not want to talk about a possible American military response to the new missile test.

This morning's launch was the second aggressive test-flight over Japanese territory in less than a month and it followed the sixth and most powerful nuclear test by North Korea to date on September 3.

Residents on Hokkaido were awoken by sirens and loudspeakers calling out: "Missile launch! Missile launch! A missile appears to have been launched from North Korea. Take cover in a building or underground," causing widespread panic.

The UN Security Council will meet this evening to discuss the latest North Korea missile test at the request of the US and Japan.

Moscow has responded to Friday's missiles test, voicing "deep concern" at the latest in what it called a series of unacceptable provocations.

"In Russia we are deeply concerned about these provocative launches which are further stoking tensions. Clearly demonstrating that our position is that such launches are unacceptable is the most tangible thing we can do right now," said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

"Judging by the United Nations' Security Council, that is a unanimous point of view which unites Security Council members."

President Vladimir Putin and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron later agreed in a phone call that resuming direct talks with North Korea was the only way to resolve tensions over its nuclear programme, the Kremlin said.

In a statement, the Kremlin said the two leaders "were united in the opinion that it was unacceptable to allow an escalation in tension."

The crisis needs to be resolved "exclusively through political and diplomatic means, by restarting direct negotiations," they reportedly said.

The United Nation's Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has today said talks on the crisis would be held on the sidelines of the General Assembly meeting next week.

Guterres called on the North Korean leadership "to cease further testing, comply with the relevant Security Council resolutions, and allow space to explore the resumption of sincere dialogue on denuclearization," read a statement by his spokesman.

The UN leader "condemns the launch" and said he will be discussing the situation "with all concerned parties in the margins of the upcoming high level week of the United Nations General Assembly."

People watch a TV screen showing a local news program reporting about North Korea's missile launch, at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea. Photo / AP
People watch a TV screen showing a local news program reporting about North Korea's missile launch, at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea. Photo / AP

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made an early morning statement saying North Korea was "trampling" on international peaceful efforts, saying the UN sanctions needed to be firmly imposed.

He added that the international community must send a clear message to North Korea over its provocative actions.

He said: "We can never tolerate that North Korea trampled on the international community's strong, united resolve toward peace that has been shown in UN resolutions and went ahead again with this outrageous act."

"If North Korea continues to walk down this path, it has no bright future. We must make North Korea understand this," he added.

A government spokesman said earlier that Japan would 'never tolerate this repeated provocative action by North Korea,' adding that the country will make an appropriate response.

"We have strongly protested to the North, telling them the strong anger by the Japanese people and condemn with the strongest words possible."

In an immediate response to Friday's launch, South Korea said its military fired a Hyunmoo-2 ballistic missile into the sea during a live-fire military drill on the east coast.

President Moon Jae-in called an emergency meeting of Seoul's national security council during which he said South Korea is able to destroy the North 'beyond recovery' if they attack.

"In case North Korea undertakes provocations against us or our ally, we have the power to destroy [them] beyond recovery," Yonhap news agency quoted President Moon as saying.

"Dialogue is impossible in a situation like this. International sanctions and pressure will further tighten to force North Korea to choose no other option but to step forward on the path to genuine dialogue."

The international response has been swift and condemning, with British foreign secretary Boris Johnson and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg calling for global action against North Korea.

Stoltenberg called for a 'global response' to North Korea's latest missile launch, calling it "a reckless breach of UN resolutions."

"North Korea's missile launch is another reckless breach of UN resolutions - a major threat to international peace and security which demands a global response," he said in a tweet.

Mr Johnson also took to Twitter, writing: "Yet another illegal missile launch by North Korea. UK and international community will stand together in the face of these provocations,."

In a subsequent statement, he added: "The UK and the international community have condemned the aggressive and illegal actions of the North Korean regime, and the succession of missile and nuclear tests. We stand firmly by Japan and our other international partners.

"We are working to mobilise world opinion with the aim of achieving a diplomatic solution to the situation on the Korean peninsula.

"This week the most stringent UN sanctions regime placed on any nation in the 21st century was imposed on North Korea, after being unanimously agreed at the UN Security Council. These measures now need to be robustly enforced. We urge all states to play their part in changing the course North Korea is taking."

The US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who is in London today for talks with Mr Johnson and Prime Minister Theresa May, said Kim Jong Un's nuclear ambitions were 'not acceptable to any member of the international community'.

Mrs May also released a statement via a spokesperson, saying "the prime minister is outraged by North Korea's continued reckless provocation and she strongly condemns the regime's illegal tests."

"Our key focus now is continuing to press China to keep up the pressure on North Korea to change course."

China is the North's main trading partner, and - while condemning the launch - continued today to refuse to take blame for the development in Pyongyang.

TV screen showing a local news program reporting about North Korea's missile launch. Photo / AP
TV screen showing a local news program reporting about North Korea's missile launch. Photo / AP

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Beijing had made 'enormous sacrifices at a great price' by implementing UN Security Council sanctions on North Korea.

"The core lies in a conflict between the DPRK and the US. The focal point of the contradiction is not China," Hua told a regular news briefing, using the acronym for the North's official name.

"China is not the driver behind the escalation of the tensions. China also does not hold the key to the Korean peninsula issue. The initiators of a trouble should end it," she said.

"It's irresponsible and unhelpful for the settlement of the issue to unjustly blame others and shirk responsibilities in any form."

The North previously launched a ballistic missile from Sunan on August 29, which flew over Japan's Hokkaido island and landed in the Pacific.

The South Korean and US militaries are analysing details of the launch, the South's Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said on Friday morning.

US President Donald Trump has been briefed about the launch, his Chief of Staff John Kelly said early Friday morning.

The US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said "these continued provocations only deepen North Korea's diplomatic and economic isolation".

He said that "all nations" should take new measures against the dictatorship.

"China and Russia must indicate their intolerance for these reckless missile launches by taking direct actions of their own," he added.

He also said China supplies North Korea with most of its oil and "Russia is the largest employer of North Korean forced labour."

South Korea's presidential Blue House has called an urgent National Security Council meeting.

Japanese chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga said there is no evidence yet of any missile fragments landed on Japanese territory.

The UN Security Council imposed its eighth round of sanctions on the country over its banned missile and nuclear programmes.

Friday's test followed a strongly worded threat by North Korea to "nuke" Japan and reduce the US to ashes in response to the new UN sanctions which have mainly targeted its fabric trade, as well as put a cap on its oil and fuel allowance.

In a statement released by the North Korean news agency KCNA Thursday, a spokesman for the regime said: "The army and people of the DPRK are unanimously demanding that the Yankees, chief culprit in cooking up the 'sanctions resolution', be beaten to death as a stick is fit for a rabid dog.

"There's limit to patience. Now is the time to annihilate the US imperialist aggressors.
Let's reduce the US mainland into ashes and darkness.

"Let's vent our spite with mobilization of all retaliation means which have been prepared till now. These are voices of the Korean army and people.

"Also heard in the DPRK are strong accusations against the Japs who have zealously joined in the US racket for sanctions.

"The behaviour of Japs, sworn enemy of the Korean nation, are enraging us. The wicked Japs should not be pardoned...

"A telling blow should be dealt to them who have not yet come to senses after the launch of our ICBM over the Japanese archipelago.

"The four islands of the archipelago should be sunken into the sea by the nuclear bomb of Juche. Japan is no longer needed to exist near us."

Seoul's military carried out a ballistic missile drill of its own yesterday in the East Sea, Korea's name for the Sea of Japan, the Yonhap news agency reported.

In July, Pyongyang fired two intercontinental ballistic missiles that appeared to bring much of the US mainland into range.

It followed that up with an announcement it was planning to send a salvo of rockets towards the US Pacific territory of Guam, home to significant military facilities.

US President Donald Trump threatened it with "fire and fury", heightening fears of conflict.

The United Nations Security Council sanctions imposed on Monday are the strongest so far, banning the North's textile trade and imposing restrictions on shipments of oil products, among a series of other measures.

But analysts expect them to do little to dissuade Pyongyang, which says it needs nuclear weapons to defend itself against the threat of invasion by the US.