UNITED NATIONS - The UN Security Council is to meet in closed session over a series of missile tests carried out by North Korea today.

North Korea test-fired at least five missiles - including a long-range Taepodong-2 missile that failed less than a minute after launch.

The council meeting - on Wednesday morning local time - was requested by Japan's UN ambassador, Kenzo Oshima, who is expected to introduce a draft resolution, diplomatic sources said.

France's UN Ambassador, Jean-Marc de la Sabliere, whose country holds the council presidency for July, said he had "received a request from the Ambassador of Japan for a meeting of the Security Council (on) the launch of missiles by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea."

The US and Japan have condemned the tests by North Korea, with Washington earlier saying it would hold diplomatic talks on the prospects for hauling Pyongyang before the 15-nation council.

Taking North Korea to the Security Council could pave the way toward UN sanctions on North Korea.

US National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley said: "There have been discussions already that if North Korea went forward it would be appropriate for the Security Council to consider this issue."

"You will be seeing a lot of diplomatic activity here over the next 24, 48 hours," he said. "We'll probably have some ideas about what the international community ought to do by way of response."

Experts say the Taepodong-2 has a possible range of 3500km to 4300km, which could put parts of Alaska in range - the cause of US concerns.

Japan's NHK TV reported the first of the smaller missiles launched by North Korea landed in the Sea of Japan about 375 miles (600 km) from Japan.

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso said Tokyo would consider economic sanctions against Tokyo as early as Wednesday local time.

He said Japan would protest the launches through diplomatic channels in Beijing.

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe said: "It is regrettable and we protest strongly against North Korea for going ahead with a launch despite warnings from relevant countries, including Japan.

"It is a serious problem from the standpoint of our national security, peace and stability of the international community and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction."

A South Korean security official described the launch of the Taepodong-2 as "unwise".

Suh Choo-suk, a senior security secretary for the presidential Blue House said Seoul seriously regretted the launch and urged North Korea to return to stalled talks on ending its nuclear weapons programmes.

"By going ahead with the launch despite warnings, North Korea has reinforced a hardline stance against itself in the international community and deepened its isolation," Suh said.

Six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear programme, joining the two Koreas, the United States, Japan, China and Russia, have been stalled since November after Washington cracked down on firms suspected of helping Pyongyang's illicit activities such as counterfeiting.

Experts say North Korea is developing long-range missiles to have the capability one day to deliver a nuclear bomb, but that Pyongyang is years away from having such a weapons system.

North Korea said in February 2005 it possessed nuclear weapons. It has threatened to build up its nuclear arsenal several times since then in response to what it perceives as increased US threats.

On Monday, Pyongyang vowed to respond with an "annihilating " nuclear strike if attacked pre-emptively by the United States.