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North Korean leader Kim Jong-un reportedly took personal control of North Korea's new intercontinental ballistic missile – which has been dubbed the "monster missile" – as he slammed the "aggressive US".
The missile landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone earlier today, and experts say it had the potential range to strike the US mainland.
While it's currently unclear whether North Korea possesses a viable nuclear warhead that' small enough to place on such a missile, the development has aroused grave concerns in the West.
READ MORE: US Air Force in Japan urges personnel to take cover as North Korea fires missile
Alerts were issued in Japan urging people to "evacuate inside a building or underground" with Japanese TV broadcasting national alerts.
The US, and South Korean governments have all condemned North Korea for launching the missile, which landed approximately 124 miles west of Oshima-Oshima island in the northern prefecture of Hokkaido.
“We naturally lodged a strong protest against North Korea, which has repeated its provocations with unprecedented frequency,” Japan’s prime minister, Fumio Kishida, told reporters in Thailand, where he is attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit meeting.
He added: “We have told (Pyongyang) that we absolutely cannot tolerate such actions.
“Japan, the US and South Korea must coordinate closely to work toward the complete denuclearisation of North Korea.”
North Korea humiliated after Kim Jong-un's missile hits own city in test gaffe
South Korean military sources described the missile – which flew 1,000 km (621 miles) at an altitude of 6,100 km and speeds approaching 22 times the speed of sound – as a “serious provocation damaging peace and security on the Korean Peninsula”.
Chang Young-keun, a missile expert at Korea Aerospace University in South Korea, said today's launch was successful and that the flight details indicated it was the same type of missile that North Korea tested in March, when North Korea claimed to have launched a Hwasong-17, but South Korea insisted it was a Hwasong-15.
The Japanese defence minister, Yasukazu Hamada, told reporters: "Based on calculations taking the trajectory into account, the ballistic missile this time around could have had a range capability of 15,000 km, depending on the weight of its warhead, and if that’s the case, it means the US mainland was within its range.
North Korea's state newspaper quoted Kim Jong-un as saying that that if the "enemy continues to threaten by openly introducing nuclear strike means, the Party and the government of the Republic will resolutely respond to nuclear weapons and head-on confrontation".
Russia's foreign minister warns World War 3 would be ‘nuclear and destructive’
Earlier this week North Korea's foreign minister, Choe Son Hui, criticised recent meeting between the United States, South Korea and Japan, during which the leaders criticised Pyongyang's weapons tests and pledged greater security cooperation.
She said the three countries' "war drills for aggression" would not intimidate North Korea but would instead bring a "more serious, realistic and inevitable threat".
"The keener the U.S. is on the 'bolstered offer of extended deterrence' to its allies and the more they intensify provocative and bluffing military activities … the fiercer the DPRK's military counteraction will be," she added, saying "The US will be well aware that it is gambling, for which it will certainly regret".
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