North Korea has fired an unidentified ballistic missile, which has gone higher than any previous attempt, U.S. Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said Tuesday.
“North Korea launched an unidentified ballistic missile eastward from the vicinity of Pyongsong, South Pyongan province, at dawn today,” Yohnap News agency quoted the South’s joint chiefs of staff as saying.
A Pentagon spokesperson said the missile travelled about 1,000 kilometres from the launch point of Sain Ni, North Korea before landing in the Sea of Japan.
The test was the rogue nation’s first launch in 70 days. North Korea hadn’t launched a missile since lobbing one over Japan on Sept. 15.
South Korea responded to the North’s launch by conducting a “precision strike” missile exercise, Yonhap News reported. Mattis explained that the country launched “pinpoint missiles out into the water ” to make sure the North knew they were able to counter-attack.
The UN Security Council will convene for an emergency meeting, at the request of Japan and South Korea, a spokesperson in Italy confirmed.
Mattis, who was speaking during a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House, warned that the Asian country is continuing to build missiles that can “threaten everywhere in the world.”
“It went higher, frankly, than any previous shot they’ve taken,” he said.
“It’s a continued effort to build a threat — a ballistic missile threat that endangers world peace, regional peace, and certainly, the United States.”
WATCH: Mattis says latest North Korea launch went higher, further than before
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump “was briefed, while the missile was still in the air, on the situation in North Korea.”
WATCH: Trump responds to North Korean missile launch
The launch comes just after South Korea’s unification minister warned the North could have its nuclear arsenal sooner than expected.
Speaking at a news conference in Seoul on Tuesday, Cho Myoung-gyon warned of the faster production a day after Japan had suggested the North might be preparing for a missile launch.
“Experts think North Korea will take two to three more years but they are developing their nuclear capabilities faster than expected,” the minister said. “We cannot rule out the possibility that Pyongyang may declare the completion of their nuclear program in a year.”
Japan’s Kyodo news agency reported late on Monday that the Japanese government was on alert after catching radio signals, suggesting a launch could come in a few days. The report also said the signals might be related to winter military training by the North Korean military.
“North Korea has not conducted an additional nuclear test or a missile test since Sept. 15. However, it has constantly showed movements, such as tests of missile engines and fuels,” Myoung-gyon said.
Citing a government source, Yonhap News reported Tuesday signs of activity have been detected at North Korean missile bases in recent weeks. However, the unnamed source said more observation is needed to determine what the North is doing.
“More monitoring is needed to gauge whether the North is trying to launch a missile or is preparing for winter training that starts in December,” the news agency quoted the source as saying.
A week ago, the Trump administration declared North Korea a state sponsor of terrorism, further straining ties between governments that are still technically at war. Washington also imposed new sanctions on North Korean shipping firms and Chinese trading companies dealing with the North.
North Korea called the terror designation a “serious provocation” that justifies its development of nuclear weapons.
-with a file from Reuters and the Associated Press.