North Korea has launched a ballistic missile in its latest test-fire in recent months amid rising tensions with US.

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff confirmed the missile had been launched from the North Phyongan province in the direction of Japan on Monday.

It wasn't immediately clear if this was a routine firing of a short-range missile or an attempt to perfect North Korea's longer-range missiles, according to Daily Mail.

Despite threats of tougher US sanctions over its aggressive tests, Kim Jong Un is relentlessly pressing on with his nuclear program.

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The past few months has seen Pyongyang stepping up its military exercises and has tested at least four new missile systems - despite pressure from other countries to stop.

Today's launch is the first by the North since a June 8 test of a new type of cruise missile that Pyongyang claimed is capable of striking US and South Korean warships "at will."

In another show of defiance, earlier on Monday, Pyongyang released footage of Jong-un watching his troops destroy a mocked-up South Korean rocket during a huge military exercise.

The tyrant could be seen grinning as special forces soldiers used grenades to blow up a replica Hyunmoo-3 cruise missile.

Tensions have been rising between North Korea, and the US over its nuclear and missile program, and Washington is even considering whether to re-designate Pyongyang as a state sponsor of terrorism.

Former President Barack Obama said that the country's pursuit of nuclear weapons has 'done nothing to secure the North Korean people' during a visit to Seoul on Monday.

Meanwhile, current president Donald Trump spoke to his Chinese and Japanese counterparts to discuss the North Korean threat as his patience began wearing thin over Kim Jong-un's nuclear threat on Friday.

Trump has become increasingly frustrated with China's inability to rein in North Korea, and the reference to trade was an indication that the one-time New York businessman may be ready to return to his tougher-talking ways on business with Beijing after holding back in hopes that it would put more pressure on Pyongyang.

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Photo/AP
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Photo/AP

He called for a determined response to North Korea in his talks with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and stressed the importance of the US-South Korean alliance but took aim at Seoul over trade and sharing the cost of defense.

It comes days after Kim Jong-un threatened South Korea's former president with a "miserable dog's death" over an alleged plot to assassinate the tyrant - something South Korea's spy agency described as "unpardonable".

Today's test fire also comes just one day after China's U.N. ambassador warned that further escalation of already high tensions with North Korea risks getting out of control, "and the consequences would be disastrous."

Liu Jieyi expressed hope that key nations will support China's attempts to de-escalate tensions and revive negotiations for de-nuclearization and peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.

An important part of the proposal would be a "suspension for suspension," which would see North Korea halt nuclear and missile testing and the United States and South Korea stop military exercises.

Fears of a conflict on the Korean Peninsula, which has been divided between the American-backed South and communist North since the 1950-53 Korean War, have escalated as the North's young leader, Kim Jong Un, has expanded a nuclear arsenal and developed ballistic missiles that can carry nuclear warheads. His government says these are needed to avert a U.S. invasion.

North Korea's U.N. Ambassador Kim In Ryong said last week that the more than 50-year confrontation between North Korea and the United States came closer to the brink of nuclear war than ever before when the U.S. and South Korea held what he called their largest-ever 'aggressive' military exercises in April and May.

Kim warned the United States and the rest of the world that his country will keep building up its nuclear arsenal regardless of sanctions, pressure or military attack.

Already this year, North Korea has disclosed and tested four new missile systems, sending a defiant message that it will continue to pursue a weapons program that has rattled its neighbors and Washington.

China's Liu, who holds the Security Council presidency this month, said the suspension-for-suspension proposal, achieving de-nuclearization along with "a security mechanism for the Korean Peninsula at the same time," and replacing the armistice that ended the Korean War with a peace agreement, address all the major concerns in the region.

"And we do believe that once we embark on the road of negotiations along the lines of these proposals - and, of course, we are open-minded about other proposals - we will be able to calm things down and seek a lasting solution to de-nuclearization and peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula," he said.

"We have never stopped working on various parties so that dialogue and negotiations can take place to get us on the track of resolving the problems of denuclearization and peace and security on the Korean Peninsula," Liu said in response to a question on the prospect for negotiations.

North Korea shows off its arsenal during a military parade earlier this year. Photo/AP
North Korea shows off its arsenal during a military parade earlier this year. Photo/AP

"So much is at stake and we cannot afford to wait for too long without dialogue taking place to see the situation having the possibility of worsening still," he warned.

While the Chinese ambassador didn't refer to any country when he expressed hope that "the other parties will be more forthcoming" in accepting the package Beijing outlined, his comment appeared to be aimed at the Trump administration which has made clear that it first wants to see signs that North Korea is starting to dismantle its nuclear and missile programs.

President Donald Trump spoke to China's President Xi Jinping Sunday night about the growing threat from North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programs and will meet him later this week at the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany, the White House said.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told the Security Council in late April that the U.S. does not seek regime change in North Korea, and he signaled American openness to holding direct negotiations with Pyongyang - once it begins to dismantle it nuclear and missile programs.

But Tillerson said all options "must remain on the table," while emphasizing the need for diplomatic and economic pressure on North Korea.

Last week, the United States blacklisted a small Chinese bank over its business ties with North Korea.

Liu stressed that the Security Council should impose global sanctions, not individual countries.

"We have always been opposed to unilateral sanctions outside the framework of the United Nations," the Chinese ambassador said. "We do not see that as the right thing to do."