North Korea has broadcast a special television announcement to declare its latest missile launch a success and claimed it's "capable of striking the whole mainland of the US".
A North Korean Central Television (NKCT) newsreader today revealed that the test-fire of intercontinental ballistic rocket Hawasong-15, topped with a "super-large heavy warhead", was successfully carried out. The rogue nation came to a halt as citizens stopped in the streets to watch the broadcast on screens.
The presenter said the missile had technical capabilities far superior to the previous Hwasong-14 and had soared "to the highest altitude of 4475km" and landed in its targeted area, flying 950 kilometres.
The announcement contradicted a previous statement by the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff, who claimed the missile was an older Hawsong-14 model.
The broadcast showed a still photo of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un signing the order for the launch.
A statement released by North Korea said:
"After making a 53-minute flight along its preset orbit, the rocket accurately landed in the target waters set in the open sea in the East Sea of Korea."
According to the statement, Kim Jong Un "declared with pride that now we have finally realised the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force, the cause of building a rocket power".
"The development and advancement of the strategic weapon of the DPKR are to defend the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country from the US imperialists' nuclear blackmail policy and nuclear threat, and to ensure the peaceful life of the people, and therefore, they would not pose any threat to any country and region as long as the interests of the DPKR are not infringed upon."
Earlier, North Korea launched its most successful intercontinental ballistic missile yet, with experts warning New York and Washington on the eastern seaboard of the US are now within striking range.
The ICBM was launched on a steep trajectory before crashing back to Earth 960km away in the Sea of Japan, 210km from the Japanese coast.
During its 53-minute flight time, the missile soared 4500km into space — which is 10 times higher than the orbit of the International Space Station, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported.
US President Donald Trump was briefed on the development while the missile was still in the air, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted.
Trump warned the US will "take care of it" following the launch and said "it is a situation that we will handle."
Defence Secretary James Mattis said North Korea is endangering world peace, regional peace and "certainly the United States."
"It's a research and development effort on their part to continue building ballistic missiles that could threaten everywhere in the world, basically," he said.
Mattis said Seoul has fired pinpoint missiles into surrounding waters to make certain Pyongyang understands it can be "taken under fire" by the South.
EVERYWHERE UNDER THREAT
Defence analysts say this latest test demonstrates North Korea has the power and range of a fully functional ICBM, and is likely to have been a Hwasong-14 model missile with a simulated 100kg payload.
David Wright, co-director and senior scientists at the Union of Concerned Scientists said this was significantly longer than North Korea's previous long range tests, which flew on lofted trajectories for 37 minutes.
If flown on a standard trajectory rather than at a lofted angle, the missile would have a range of more than 13,000km, he warned.
This could reach not only the US but anywhere in Australia and New Zealand.
Shea Cotton, a research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, said this put Washington, DC, within range.
He also said it was the highest performance we've seen in North Korea's ICBM to date.
Vipin Narang, an Associate professor of political science at MIT and an expert on nuclear proliferation and strategy and South Asian security, tweeted "it's real folks" adding the North may have wanted to make clear it can hit the eastern US seaboard.
The ballistic missile was fired from an area north of the capital Pyongyang, South Korea's official news agency reports.
The unidentified missile shot from Pyongsong, South Pyongan Province, flew into the East Sea about 3.17am Wednesday local time, South Korea's military chiefs told Yonhap.
Japan's defence minister Itsunori Onodera said the missile broke up before it landed in the sea, in Japan's exclusive economic zone.
South Korea and US authorities are still analysing the launch, but the Pentagon said its initial assessment indicated it was an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
The UN Security Council has scheduled an emergency meeting over the latest launch.
The North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD) determined the missile launch did not pose a threat to North America, its territories or its allies, including Australia.
However, experts warn the test is cause for concern and international pressure was forcing the rogue nation to act out "violently".
Cotton said the NORAD statement didn't refer to the missile's capabilities.
'They meant that they saw the missile, analysed its trajectory while it was in flight, and assessed that it was not aimed at the US or any US allies," he said.
"They're not referring to the missile's capabilities, which do pose a threat to all of those."
Prof Narang said we should not "take too much comfort" over speculation that the missile may have contained a very light mock warhead and would therefore not be capable of carrying a nuclear warhead over such a distance.
South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said it had conducted a "precision strike" missile launch exercise about 3.23am in response to the North's "provocation", Yonhap reported.
President Moon Jae-in has convened a National Security Council meeting to discuss its next steps.
Japanese, South Korean and US officials were on high alert yesterday after they detected unusual activity and signs that suggested North Korea was preparing another missile launch, including radio signals.
This is the first time the North has launched a ballistic missile since it shot an intermediate-range ballistic missile over northern Japan into the Pacific Ocean on September 15.
It is North Korea's 20th missile test since the start of the year, compared to the 24 launched in 2016.
Ballistic missile analyst for Washington-based monitoring group 38 North and fellow for Missile Defence at the International Institute for Strategic Studies said: "NK appears to have taken another minor step forward as it attempts to mature its ICBM technology.
He said he believed a "viable ICBM" capable of reaching the west coast of the US mainland is still a year away.